In Gemini Man, Will Smith plays Henry Brogan, a government assassin with 72 confirmed kills under his belt. That tally has been getting to him, though, and he decides it is time for him to hang up his sniper rifle for good. Would that it be so easy. Henry’s bosses become convinced that he knows something that could bury them, though, so they decide Henry’s retirement should become something more… permanent. Henry is the best, though, so they send the best.
In Gemini Man, Will Smith plays Junior, a young defense contractor who’s exceptional skills allows him to specialize taking care of problems like Henry Brogan. Junior is sent to ensure that Henry stays retired for good. What he does not know is that he and Henry are identical twins—25 years apart.
This month Eve Franklin and I tackle questions of guilt, the image of God, and nature versus nurture as we discuss the new Will Smith science fiction “action” movie Gemini Man. It is directed by Ang Lee and stars, along with Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, and Benedict Wong. The score is composed by Lorne Balfe. While not a great movie, it does provide some interesting discussion material regarding cloning, the impact of guilt, and moral responsibility.
Gemini Man doesn’t have a lot of original composition in it, drawing heavily on popular music with some original stuff filling in the gaps. While it came across as an action film in the trailers, Eve and I were split on if it really qualified. I thought the action that it did have was really well done, feeling very realistic. Eve was in the other camp, feeling like the action wasn’t that good. Rotten Tomatoes classifies the film as “Mystery & Suspense , Science Fiction & Fantasy.” Ang Lee was pushing technical boundaries with Gemini Man, though—it has been recorded and played at 120 frames a second, five times as many frame per second as the standard 2D Hollywood fare. The reviews on the resolution and frame rate have been mixed though, with the high frame rate allowing much more crisp fast moving action. We’ve come to expect the blurring of action, and the newly delivered fidelity is bothering for some people.
While the premise was interesting enough, the delivery was a bit lacking. The end result was science that was on the wrong side of believable for many, Eve and her co-viewers included. The fast paced scene and geographic changes caused logic and continuity problems that were hard to ignore. The plot itself had a few <<cough, cough>> minor holes it in that prevented proper enjoyment. One thing they did really, really well was the de-aging of Will Smith in the role of Junior. While you could tell if you were looking specifically for it, it was close enough that you could put it aside and still enjoy the show. The movie was a little heavy handed in giving Henry a litany of bad things, both nature (bee allergies & cilantro tasting like soap) and nurture (abusive father, difficult military experience, and a growing, guilty conscience). The director needed the audience to realize that Henry was a man on the edge of brokenness, but he put a few too many straws on that camel’s back.
Will Smith does an excellent job, though, in both roles. He is easy to sympathize with and his delivery is natural and believable, through and through. It also features Benedict Wong of Doctor Strange and The Martian, an actor we’d both enjoy seeing more of.
While rated PG-13, it had more swearing that we’d normally associate with that rating. It seems like the MPAA is becoming more and more lenient in what they are allowing when its come to language. For a more focused review on potentially offensive content, we recommend you check out Focus on the Family’s movie review service, Plugged In and their review of Gemini Man. They do a great breakdown of the content and provide valuable feedback and advice on what to expect and how you might address it with your age-appropriate kids.
Ghost of Assassinations Past
Henry has come to realize that his career has created a weigh on his soul, despite his fervent belief that he was making the world a better and safer place. When he tendered his retirement to his handler, he said, “72 kills. That [stuff] starts to mess with you. Deep down it’s like my soul is hurt. I just want some peace.” He takes it a step further when he admits that he, “finds himself avoiding mirrors lately.”
While trying to convince Junior that he and Henry were “the same,” Henry provides a whole list of faults and problems that they are likely to share. In a way, he starts to confess his sins, trying to lift the weight, even a little bit, from his soul.
“Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 3:13)
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:3)
Of course, it is unlikely the director intended this realization to be a actual confession of sin to himself, to Junior, or even to the audience. Even if it were, though, it’s missing a crucial element. When we acknowledge our sin, we must also acknowledge whom we have sinned against: God.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:1-2)
Far worse than the feelings of guilt and shame that Henry is feeling, though, is what happens to those that do not have those feelings, like the movie’s antagonist, government contractor corporate head Clay Verris. He is convinced that everything he has done has been for the greater good and sees no cause for concern at all. Worse, he will continue to do evil in the name of good. But the Word calls out a curse on Verris and people like him:
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
One of the things that I thought Ang Lee was doing was that he was letting the audience “fill in the gaps” when it came to things that were not explicitly addressed in the movie. Eve didn’t see it that way. I felt like it allowed the audience to fill in the non-critical parts of the story in such a way that it made the most sense to them at the time.
In the podcast, I try to draw a parallel to how the same scriptural lessons can mean different things to different people, but I did a poor job of it. I want to be clear here: Scripture has one true, complete meaning, and no matter how you read it in whatever stage of your walk you may be, it does not change the truth of that scripture.
What I wanted to say was that, as we grow as Christians we gain deeper levels of understanding from the same scripture passages as we come to understand it better. A passage we favored as a young adult is likely to carry much more importance and potency to us when we are older. Our experiences allow us to understand and apply the truth of the Bible with more certainty and clarity. It is like the difference between the 256 colors of computer monitors of the 1980’s and and the 16.7 million of today’s ultra-high definition flat screen gaming monitors. The truth of the picture itself hasn’t changed, but the resolution and presentation is so much clearer and more crisp. Almost like 24 frames per second versus 120 frame per second. I hope that makes it more clear than I did in the audio.
In the Image of God
The primary premise of this movie is that super-solider Henry Brogan has been cloned. The desire is to have (or raise) a solider with all of Henry’s incredible skill without any of the damage that he accumulated over the decades learning it. That’s the premise, anyway. The problem is that it was a enough of a departure from the actual science to bother Eve.
In Gemini Man, the bad-guy-behind-the-curtain, Clay Verris, makes his view of men like Henry, Jack, and Baron clear: they are tools to be used and discarded when they no longer serve his purposes. He considered an old soldier’s regret to be not just a weakness, but a threat. To a colleague, he explains that old soldiers, “wear out…they grow a conscience.” When the colleague expressed distaste over a decision to have these old soldiers killed rather than allow them to retire, Verris said, “Men like [Henry]…are born to be collateral damage.”
Not only does this philosophy represent a failure of leadership, but it rebels against the Creator’s plan for humanity.
“Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,” (Psalm 8:5-6)
Verris seeks to diminish the role of mankind to serving his will, not that of God and his creation.
More, Verris seeks to sanitize war by sending cloned soldiers that have had conscience and pain edited out of their existence. The result would be not only soldiers who feel no pain or regret, but also are unable to believe in a cause or to make moral decisions. War must have pain and loss or it might become too acceptable. It would become a game of chess played by people who have far too much power.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Taken to the logical conclusion, the path that Verris follows is one of genetic destiny. While we are born with genetic dispositions, flaws, and traits, they do not define us. Society wants us to believe that being “born that way” is all the explanation we need to embrace sin and rebel against God. But we are made Imago Dei—in the Image of God. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are called to resist the sinful nature in which we were born. We may have been born in sin, but we were reborn in Christ’s righteousness.
At the writing of these show notes, they are projecting Gemini Man to loose $75 million in the box office. Less than 30% of the professional reviews aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes are overall positive. Audience views are more forgiving with 84% of those reflecting positively on the movie. Even Eve and I were split over the balance of pros and cons. One thing is undeniable, though. While the science is wonky, the moral issues that Gemini Man raises are real and deserve discussion. Humanity is created in the image of God and is not to be thrown away like an old rag once the will of our leaders is accomplished. We have guilt and shame for a reason. That reason is to draw us closer to God.
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