That’s right, I did a double feature today! I have the best husband ever who lets me go to the movies all day by myself!
Quick review 4.5 stars:
Ang Lee does it again. The action sequences do the Bruckheimer name proud, the acting in the quieter moments is pitch perfect, and the occasional dark humor is timed just right to break and yet preserve the tension. Bravo. Definitely one to catch in the theaters.
Long review with possible spoilers, but first a word about trailers:
There are, as far as I can tell, three reactions to a movie trailer: 1. I wish I was watching that movie right now, 2. I’m ok with having watched this trailer, but meh, and 3. Wow, glad that’s not the movie I’m seeing.
If an advertising division of a film company is doing their job, with only the company’s bottom line in mind, then they are shooting for the first reaction from as many people watching as possible. This will wrangle in as many butts in chairs as possible with a fair number of people either walking out half-way or sticking it out so they can accurately tell their friends why they shouldn’t see this movie. It’s a trend you mostly see with the big blockbusters that cost exorbitant amounts of money to make. The companies have to recoup those costs. So they make the film look like it’s appropriate for a wider audience range than it might be (insert the last two Avengers here).
But if that same advertising division is trying to not only sell the movie, but also make sure those attracted to it are the audience the movie was intended for, i.e. it’s true to it’s genre and age appropriateness, then those same ad execs should be pretty happy when someone sees the trailer and goes, “That is not for me.” The audience experiences a clear disclosure of what the movie is and isn’t. Those that want to see that kind of movie do, and it’s a good time. Those that wouldn’t get it or would prefer to avoid particular genres and content can do so and therefore aren’t likely to offer up negative reviews.
The second reaction should be an avoid-at-all-costs proposition. If you are trying to crystalize the essence of a movie into two minutes or less, you’ve used the best bits of dialogue, some compelling camera work, and a good editor to put it all together in a way that tells the story without telling the story then the reaction from the audience should never be, “meh.” If that’s the case then you either have incompetent advertisers/editors, or you have a heap of terrible movie that never should have been green lighted to begin with.
It amazed me as the trailers before Gemini Man ran because I experienced ALL THREE REACTIONS. I have no desire to see Stephen King’s The Sleep Doctor because I hate horror flicks- the real world scares me enough without giving myself nightmares. And the trailer makes it perfectly clear that it will be a brutal drag through emotional glass. Job well done trailer makers, because I have a feeling that horror lovers will flock to it, not only because it’s a Stephen King, but because they make it look really well done. On the flip side, I know I want to see Midway. The trailer left me going, “Oh, I kinda wish I was watching that one now.” But in between those experiences was one long parade of, “whatever.”
Do you hear me Hollywood? You are not doing your job if the trailers you produce are so forgettable that once the movie starts it’s like I never saw them. If someone mentions the title and I can’t conjure the fact that I saw the trailer, then you fail. Either stop making dreck that you have to try and sell in the most mediocre way possible, or get better people in your advertising divisions.
Ok, rant over. For now.
Gemini Man was so so good. Going in I was looking forward to the bike chase from the trailer, which did not disappoint, but I didn’t anticipate the emotional payoffs along the way.
The uncertainty of when our favorite side characters will snuff it, the latent tension between Will Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the dark comic relief from Benedict Wong and Will’s young doppleganger all keep the film moving at a perfectly comfortable clip for an action flick without running you into the ground the way some more relentless thrillers can (Jason Bourne, am I right?).
The inevitable flip of Junior at the end was completely earned, and it made the final twist(which I’m not telling you!) that much more poignant. And unlike most of these sorts of films, where being a cold killer is glamorized, the constant thread was that a life spent taking the lives of others exacts a hefty toll on the soul, and if you can if you can craft another path forward, do it. Choose to create, not destroy; and never lose your humanity in the pursuit of any goal.
I didn’t know that Ang Lee was the director going in, but as soon as I saw his name on the credits I thought, “Of course it’s Lee!” The acting as too well directed and executed for it to be anyone else.
If there are any complaints it’s that Clive Owen is a little over the top, but when is he not really? It’s kinda his thing to make those way too intense eyes at anyone who stands still within his field of vision. Then there is the near storm trooper level of inaccuracy in the supposedly elite forces sent to retrieve Smith and company. I mean, I know that they can’t really shoot anyone important until the end and our protagonists are meant to be the best of the best, but come on. Clip a shoulder now and then. Light up a treasured memento or something. And I don’t know if I just missed a previous reference, but a supposed surgery seems to get pointed to as the moment for a bug plant out of nowhere.
All that aside it is a good time if you love a little spy vs spy action. Add in the levels of meaning that Ang et all bring to play here, and it’s a catch-it-in-the-theater piece, for sure. You’ll want the popcorn with this one, trust me.
That’ll do it for now. Until next time, enjoy the show!