Elite government assassin and former Marine, Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is on a hillside with a scoped high powered rifle. Meanwhile, a Belgium bullet train races towards his location. In a nanosecond, Henry fires and hits a passenger in the neck as the train speeds by. Hit number 72.
Buttermilk Sound, Georgia: Henry is back home on the salt marsh meeting with his DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) handler, Del Patterson (Ralph Brown). He’s 51, he’s tired, and haunted by killing on command. “My soul is hurt, I want some peace,” he says. Del agrees. The next morning, Henry goes to the marina, meets a grad student named Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who has overnight replaced the lifelong manager and sails out into the ocean. Pulling up to a yacht, he boards and is welcomed by old friend, Jack Willis (Douglas Hodge). Jack tells him he was given bogus intel and that the man he just killed was a renowned biologist, not a Russian terrorist.
Alerted, Henry sails back to the marina and accuses Danny of being an agent. Why is he under surveillance if he is retired? Danny gives a fake story but knows her cover is blown. Later that night, a cleanup squad is sent to kill Jack on his yacht, Henry in his home and Danny in her apartment. Jack is killed, but Henry and Danny escape and steal a speed boat and head for open water leaving the squad dead.
At daybreak, a small sea plane lands near a sandbar and another of Henry’s former team, Baron (Benedict Wong), lands. While in the air, Henry tells Baron the facts and he takes them to his home in Cartagena, Colombia. Calling Del for info, Henry and Baron conclude their former Marine commander, Clay Varis (Clive Owen) is behind this. Varis left the service and began training super soldiers for a secret government agency. He sent Henry to kill the scientist, but why? The only thing all of them have in common is the “Gemini Project,” but it went dark 25 years ago.
For decades, the Varis Lab has been working to improve soldiers’ combat skills; speed, aggressiveness, and tolerance to pain. But primarily eliminating feelings of fear and conscience through psychological conditioning. But how?
Before dawn, Henry is awakened by a shadow crossing the window. A form is on the roof. He leaves Baron a note and sneaks out to divert the sniper from Baron and Danny. Henry is soon running through the streets, jumping from building to building and shooting around every corner. The sniper anticipates his every maneuver to escape. Henry corners the sniper in a stairwell and sites through his scope.
The face of the sniper becomes clear. It is Henry, but much younger! He can’t fire. The police arrive, as do Baron and Danny. The sniper disappears into the crowd. “Did you see him?” “Yes,” says Baron, “and he looked very familiar.”
Traveling to Budapest, Henry, Baron and Danny meet with a Russian agent. The dead scientist was doing research on cloning but was not working for the Russians but the Americans and Clay Varis. He developed the ability to successfully alter DNA, but having doubts as to how Varis would use his discovery, left Varis Lab and was returning to home. Clarity comes across Henry’s face. Somehow, years earlier, Varis has gotten a sample of Henry’s DNA and has cloned him!
The trio plots to meet and capture Henry’s clone. But then what? Can Henry kill his younger self, knowing what the boy will become? Or, knowing the remorse he now feels, can Henry redeem not only himself but save the young man from the life for which he was created?
Director Ang Lee puts us into a spy thriller filled with action that searches for the truth across the Georgia saltmarsh, into the tropical streets of Columbia and through the exotic Hungarian capital and the catacombs beneath an ancient cathedral. Will Smith plays his dual selves with such finesse. This is his most emotionally revealing role. But the action is balanced with the philosophical question of reproducing life without a conscience and for nefarious purposes. I left the theater exhilarated by the action and the striking cinematography, but drove home mulling over the ethical questions. Perhaps that was Ang Lee’s intention. This film is so much more.
“Gemini Man” is rated PG-13 for violence and action throughout, and brief strong language.