Ever since they cloned Dolly, the sheep, we’ve been afraid of this: a complete human clone. This time, it’s a dark government agency that’s behind it, headed by Clay Verris (Clive Owen). Except we don’t even get to meet him until mid-movie. We just see his violent handiwork.
Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is trying to retire to a nice, quiet seaside Georgia fishing village. Of course, they wanted him to do one more job, because few people in the world have the skill to hit a target in a moving train without harming anyone else. Henry complies, and gets the job done, but doesn’t feel right about this last job. It turns out his instinct is correct, the file he was handed was “spiked” with false information. That guy was actually a biochemist working for our side. Henry’s hackles really rise when the new young woman working at the bait shop, “Danny” (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) claims the old guy retired suddenly, and she’s his replacement. Something smells fishy to Henry, especially when he discovers a tracking device on his boat.
Now we get into the action sequences, as Henry is rudely awakened by a hit squad, and then chased by an anonymous group of black-clad assassins. Henry takes Danny along for the ride, but he’s not yet sure he can completely trust her. Nor is she certain about his protestations of innocence, either. That’s what has to settle for tension between them, because the generational gap between them is too large for anything else.
Back to the bad guy, Verris. We find out he’s a former colleague of Henry’s. They were both in the Marines together, and served several tours of duty, sometimes in places where we weren’t formally fighting a war. Verris has somehow managed to take Henry’s DNA and clone it, so that now that Henry is retired, he can train his replacement---a younger, stronger, Henry, one whom he has raised himself, to hunt and fight, after telling him he’s an orphan found at a fire station.
Yes, the sequences of a younger Will Smith fighting an older Will Smith are kind of odd-looking, but the CGI technology is definitely there. Henry has to call on old buddies to help, but mostly what he needs to do is talk to his clone, to try to explain why he doesn’t need to kill him. And then Henry needs to talk to Verris, who will claim he’s only trying to develop the perfect soldier so that all the imperfect ones won’t have to be in harm’s way.
Yes, it’s a cautionary tale about the dangers inherent in cloning, but it’s also an action movie with some really good chase scenes, even if the ending is a bit cheesy. Maybe that Brave New World really is a Pandora’s Box that we would do well not to open.