As they get older and see the long arc of their career stretching out behind them, many great directors make movies about obsolescence, expressing their fear of getting left behind in a changing world. Martin Scorsese just made one; so did Tim Burton and Clint Eastwood. And now it’s the two-time Oscar winner Ang Lee’s turn. His latest Hollywood foray is Gemini Man, a splendidly bizarre piece of action filmmaking that encourages coming to terms with one’s age, even as its advanced high-frame-rate technology makes it look like a surreal vision of an eerily crisp future. Lee is innovating and looking backwards at the same time, and the viewing experience is as bewildering as that sounds.
The script for Gemini Man, which has bounced around Hollywood since the late ’90s, has a fairly elemental concept: What if a hit man had to go up against a cloned younger version of himself? Credited to David Benioff, Billy Ray, and Darren Lemke, the screenplay is a rudimentary distillation of that idea, with dialogue that could best be described as “workmanlike” and plotting that is mostly beside the point. The hero is Henry Brogan (played by Will Smith), a 51-year-old government assassin who decides to retire when he feels his skills slipping. He stumbles into a conspiracy and finds himself in the crosshairs of Clay Verris (Clive Owen), whom he must battle with the help of a couple of sidekicks (Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Benedict Wong). But the real star is Junior, a crack military operative in his early 20s also played, with the assistance of advanced CGI, by Smith. He’s a clone of Henry that Clay has created to be the ultimate dealer of death.