Instep Today

The ‘men’ who sold the world

Instep Today
By Omair Alavi
Fri, 10, 19

As Gemini Man releases, Instep looks at some definitive moments in Hollywood history where two characters have ‘faced off’ each other, and not just figuratively.

The best thing about technology is that it upgrades itself with the passage of time. From the early days of filmmaking to the modern era, things have improved drastically in Hollywood.

Gone are the days when directors such as the legendary Alfred Hitchcock used tricks to create an illusion. Special effects do that these days and Gemini Man is a classic example of that where a young Will Smith tries to assassinate the older version of himself. In the process, he tests both the audience’s patience and intelligence. Given that, Instep takes a look at some definitive moments in Hollywood history where two characters have ‘faced off’ each other, in different eras, with ‘double impact’ on the audience in general, and filmmaking in particular.

Inspector Clouseau (1968)

There are two kinds of Inspectors in this world – the ones who solve cases through hard work and those who have their cases solved by luck. Inspector Clouseau falls in the latter category so when in Inspector Clouseau, the only film to feature Alan Arkin as the bungling detective, the character is close to solving the case (or the other way around), an impostor is sent to destroy him. The person tasked with the impossible mission is wearing a mask designed to look like Clouseau but he doesn’t have the stupidity that accompanies the Inspector. The two Clouseaus have a showdown during the second half of the film, where the fake one’s luck runs out.

Double Impact (1991)

Out of the three action stars of the ‘80s and ‘90s – Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Van Damme – the one with most double roles to his name is Jean Claude Van Damme. He must be indebted to Double Impact for starting that trend for him. Playing long-lost brothers in this revenge saga, both Van Dammes join hands to destroy the man who killed their father. They do fight each other during the film when they didn’t know who the other person is, or when there is a girl involved. But the experiment was so successful that he went onto play double roles in Time Cop, Maximum Risk and Replicant, each time in a different way.

Face/Off (1997)

John Woo’s Face/Off doesn’t have two similar-looking actors fighting each other. It had two people who had their faces switched surgically – making it a one-of-its-kind story. When the two actors are Nicolas Cage and John Travolta, it takes the switch to a whole new level. In a film that was way ahead of its times, and has been repeatedly copied around the world, FBI Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) has his face replaced with terrorist Castor Troy’s (Nicolas Cage) so that he can talk to the latter’s brother and find out where the two had planted a potentially devastating bomb in the city. Things take a turn for the worse when Nicholas Cage’s Troy wakes up and makes the doctors put John Travolta’s face on his faceless body. From there on, both the actors give a superlative performance with John Travolta acting as the bad guy and Cage as the good and vice versa. Add stylized John Woo action scenes, a stellar background score, and stunts and you get a film that never gets old. It even set the path for John Woo to direct Mission Impossible 2.

Terminator Genesis (2015)

As viewers, though we have seen several Arnold Schwarzenegger films in the Terminator franchise, the fight sequence took shape 24 years later in one of the sequels of the franchise. In Terminator Genesis, the fifth film in the saga and the fourth featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator from 1984 battled the upgraded and human version of himself in 2015. Sarah Connor, the very person Terminator was sent to destroy, aided the Terminator of 2015, who had grown old, but was still good for a fight. The creators used special effects to make the young Arnold fight the older one, and you know which one emerged victoriously from the fight.

Gemini Man (2019)

The year is 2019 and there is Gemini Man, the Ang Lee film that will be remembered for its technological advancement in the coming years. Will Smith plays both the young and old version of himself, with the young one being tasked to assassinate the old one for political reasons. They don’t look like the same version of one person, with the 50-something Henry Brogan (Will Smith) looking decades different from his 20-something version. But they are the same person with Junior reminding the audience of Will Smith’s Fresh Prince of Bel-Air TV show that aired nearly 30 years ago. Gemini Man’s making and behind the scenes footage will blow your mind as it takes filmmaking to a whole new level and should be difficult to match in the coming days.

Omair Alavi is a freelance broadcast journalist who can be contacted at [email protected]