Few directors have proven as impossible to pin down as Ang Lee, the Taiwanese-born director behind Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain, The Wedding Banquet, and, most recently, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. He’s a populist and has worked primarily with major studios, or their more independent-minded branches like Sony Pictures Classics or Focus, but his inclinations tend toward a quiet sort of audacity. For all the indifference that it was met with, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was a very good movie about an incredibly difficult subject – how America has a truly ugly tendency to sanctify soldiers while simultaneously showing an ambivalence for the psychological and physical torment they endure in their occupation. Clint Eastwood‘s Flags of Our Fathers did a far more succinct and compelling job of explaining this, but to ignore the lessons and genuine artistry of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk would be wrongheaded in the extreme.
Still, such serious-mined movies are easily the most difficult to market and get audiences excited about, at least in the modern landscape. The fact that Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk didn’t put asses in seats was not a surprise at all. Hopes can be set a little higher for Gemini Man, the science-fiction action film that, according to Variety, Lee is in very early discussions to take on for Skydance, from a script originally penned by Game of Thrones honcho David Benioff. The movie follows a senior NSA official begins to be hunted by a young clone of himself right as he is about to retire from the agency, which puts it in the same realm as something like Looper.
Lee’s name is new to the discussion but Gemini Man has been in the pipeline for nearly two decades at this point. The late, great Curtis Hanson, cut from the same cloth as Lee as an artist, was set to take the project on for a long stretch. Before that, Tony Scott was at the top of the list to lens the film. In both situations, the project fizzled but Lee could bring a unique perspective to the action movie. Unless you count Hulk, Lee has never come close to this sort of story – he’s a man of comedies, drama, melodramas, and romances. And it’s just that sort of background that might make him ideal to turn this struggling property into a unique futuristic vision or even a new classic. For the man behind masterworks like The Ice Storm and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this could be a new place to challenge his abilities and map out his place in arguably the most populist genre out there.