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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It took several viewings for me to fully appreciate this film: the good, the
bad and the merely eccentric.
On the good side, the performances are amazing, from Gore Vidal as the Gattaca Corporation boss-type to Ethan Hawke as the hero to (especially) Jude Law as the crippled, self-hating Valid who helps him. Even Uma Thurman manages to shine, despite her part being so slender you couldn't see it if it stood sideways.
The design is also stunning. I don't know whether they shot the whole film through a green filter or what, but somehow the future that we see is visually distinct without being all that different from the present. (Vincent's minimalist apartment wouldn't look out of place in present-day London or Manhattan.) The look of the film is a wonderfully understated elegance, not a hair out of place, reflecting the regimentedness of the characters' lives.
On the bad side...well, first of all the science is seriously dodgy. Niccol attributes to genetics things which are only partly genetic, if that, and over-simplifies horribly. Anyone who actually knows about genetics will cringe a few times at the mistakes he makes.
Also, the dialogue is appallingly banal. I found myself able to predict what the characters would say next -- the *first* time I saw it. And that lessens the credibility of the characters. Thank Goodness all the actors are so bursting with talent, or else this film would have been duller than ditchwater.
And as for eccentric...well, where were all the passers-by? This future seems curiously empty. I know, I know; there was plenty of traffic, and the concert-hall was full, and there were the Gattaca employees...but these somehow didn't seem like real people, more like video constructs to make us *think* there were people around. I dunno, maybe it was just me.
Another thing on the "good" list, for me, was the ending. Up until the very end, I was convinced this was going to be yet another individual-fights-the-system-and-wins film, the kind that Hollywood puts out so regularly with no regard for realism. Because, let's face it, when an individual fights a huge institution, the chances of said individual winning are minimal. Institutions can only really be fought by groups of people joining together in common cause (viz. unions against big business, environmental groups against polluters etc.). But the ending of Gattaca is neither the unrealistic "I fought the law and I won" ending nor the realistic, but downbeat "I fought the law and the law won" ending. Instead, it's the third possible ending: "I defrauded the system and got away with it, and this is a good thing, because the system is morally corrupt."
This kind of ending is much rarer than the other two, because it's so subversive. It's not a huge leap from seeing the society portrayed in a film as morally corrupt to seeing *our* society as morally corrupt. That Niccol opted for the difficult, pessimistic, and yet not disheartening choice of letting Vincent get away with his deception without changing anything about the society itself or even so much as making a Bold Statement about genetic engineering speaks volumes about his willingness to take risks. It's not a conventional ending by any manner of means, especially when you factor in the suicide of Jerome.
Speaking of which -- I don't think the death of a major character has moved me so much since Charlotte's Web. What a truly heroic act -- and from a character so previously unheroic! Due in large part to the charisma of Jude Law's performance, Jerome is deeply sympathetic...yet he has considered himself a failure all his life. He drinks, he indulges in bouts of self-pity, he expresses contempt for life, other people, and, in one particularly memorable scene, the planet Earth ("this ball of dirt!"). It may be a cliche that you don't know your strength until it's tested, but it's true all the same; and *we* don't know Jerome's strength until the very end.
You might just think that it's a macabre and unpleasant way of committing suicide and no more, but think: as long as Jerome is alive, Vincent is not safe. There is always the possibility of Vincent getting caught as long as Jerome remains as, so to speak, a skeleton in his closet. Jerome, in fact, kills himself in order to set Vincent free, and does in it such a way as to make sure that no remains are left behind to incriminate Vincent, despite the intense pain this must have caused him.
Now *that's* love. And evidence of a far more convincing and profound relationship than the tacked-on romance between Vincent and Irene. Let us not forget that Jerome gives Vincent a lock of his hair to take with him on the trip...when he wasn't going to need it for a DNA test. The greatest love story never told. But that's just my opinion.
"Gattaca": a name made up of the four letters biologists use to map the
nucleotides in DNA.
There are lots of great-looking "science fiction" movies out there, but a rare few that, deep down, have the DNA of "Gattaca." The stylish cinematography make this film like a fine painting. And like a painting, your heart and mind will be engaged by more than mere appearances.
The best speculative fiction, in print or on film, is about people. The science and technology are only an allegory for telling the tale. That is not to say that the scientific premises of "Gattaca" are insignificant--we may one day have to deal with biases for *or* against genetically engineered people. But there is much more to this film than that.
If you see "Gattaca" on DVD, be sure to watch the "Coda" in the "Lost Scenes" supplement. (Perhaps the filmmakers removed it from the theatrical release on the grounds that it would focus too much on the technology in the story, rather than the people?)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The 'progress' of science has strewn the landscape of this world with
silly and dangerous myths about human behavior. These myths are
perpetuated with authority by the scientific establishment and in time
they have the same stranglehold over society and even global culture as
the religious authorities once had through their myths. One such myth
has resulted from genetic research: that all human behavior,
capabilities, character and potentiality is determined by that
individual's DNA. Although it is not obvious in the movie, but I am
positing here that there is an abstract force in human beings called
WILL that is the driving force for intelligence that has almost nothing
to do with DNA. It is that force that makes an individual do things
that are seemingly impossible on face value, and beyond the indicated
scope of the best possible DNA. And if you don't have the Will, even
your potential intelligence that may be indicated by DNA is worthless.
"Gerome had everything he needed to get into Gattaca, except the desire
to do so."
GATTACA is a very good satire on this myth and also how damaging this kind of scientific mythology has been to humanity. In the plot this has been done by projecting this myth to its logical extreme into a fictional future society that controls human behavior and assesses all human capabilities according to individual DNA by making it almost mandatory to produce off-springs that are genetically controlled by removing all genes that are associated with diseases or any potential deficiencies in the physiology of the offspring. Natural conception of off-springs is highly discouraged almost a taboo and any such persons are refused the top jobs. Vincent is natural born, with a short life expectancy and so he is a janitor, however he dreams of going to a space mission but is rejected only because his DNA isn't good enough, "I belonged to a new underclass no longer by social status or the color of your skin we now had discrimination down to a science".
Vincent manages to get into Gattaca fraudulently by using the DNA of a 'perfect' person, but has to use all the precautions daily so that he is not detected as an 'invalid'. This builds up the tension and the suspense in the movie which lasts till the very end. Another interesting element in the dialogs or voice over is the frequent references to "they", meaning the scientific establishment that has defined human potential only in terms of DNA. "They won't believe that one of their own elite could have suckered them all this time. You don't understand when they look at you, they don't see you; they see me (my DNA)." When Irene, who becomes romantically involved with Vincent discovers that he is an impersonator and also a 'God child' and not a 'science child', she is upset, angry and confounded as to how Vincent has been able to pull it off despite not having the potential the right DNA. Vincent confronts her bias and prejudice and shows her how narrow her thinking has been become because of 'them'. "You are the authority of what is not possible, aren't you Irene. They have got you working so hard looking for flaws that after a while that's all that you see. For whatever its worth, I'm here to tell you that it's possible."
This is a must watch movie for those who suspect that the scientific establishment has abused its authority in the educational process of this now globalized culture to narrow down reality only into what 'they' think that 'they' have determined as valid knowledge. This is the presently unconscious terror that 'they' have unleashed upon this world, the terror of the most deadly kind of ignorance.
The first I watched Gattaca in Biology class (which wasn't long ago); I
literally fell in love with it. I loved it so much; I had to add it to
my DVD collection, so I can watch it whenever I feel like it. After
re-watching it today, I enjoyed it even more than the first time I
STORY: Taking place in the future where the society analyzes people's DNA to see where they belong in life, Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), a man born with a heart defect, dreams of going on a space mission to one of Saturn's moons. In order to achieve that goal, he works at the Gattaca Corporation and assumes the identity of Jerome Morrow (Jude Law), a genetic specimen who got paralyzed from the waist down.
MY THOUGHTS: One thing that surprised me was that Gattaca was a box-office flop when it came out back in 1997. The movie had a budget of $36 million and it made $12.5 million domestically. The reason why it wasn't a financial success back in the day is probably because people were expecting it to be some kind of a space adventure like Star Trek or Star Wars instead of a thoughtful sci-fi film-noir. Despite the financial flop that the movie had got, it's an excellent movie quality-wise.
The story to Gattaca is very original, well-written, and keeps your interest the whole time. The dialogue in this is fantastic; very thoughtful, very intelligent, and all in all, just excellent. The direction by Andrew Niccol is wonderful; the sets, the lighting, and the atmosphere of this world make the scenes look imaginative and noir-ish (it's a film-noir). The music by Michael Nyman is simply breathtaking. The themes of genetic engineering and achieving one thing in life were well-used.
THE ACTING: Ethan Hawke delivers a terrific performance as the genetically subordinate man (Vincent) who wants to achieve an important goal in his life. Uma Thurman does excellent playing a woman (Irene Cassini) who Vincent becomes attracted to, and is one of his co-workers at the Gattaca Corporation. Jude Law was terrific as a guy (Jerome) who Vincent assumes his identity from.
IN CONCLUSION: Gattaca is a fantastic sci-fi film-noir about genetic engineering and achieving one thing in life, and dealing with a man and the society around him. If you are into science or if you are a film buff and love science fiction but haven't seen Gattaca, I highly suggest you pick it up, it truly is a fantastic film.
Some of the best sci-fi ever tends to be fiction that raises big social
or political themes and often creates their own world. Gattaca is an
very intelligence low key sci-fi film from then first-time
writer-director Andrew Niccol.
In the future people parents are able to genetically engineer their children to minimalist the risk of genetic diseases and even cosmetic issues such as eyesight, baldness and obesity. Doctors can find out from birth whether a child is at risk of any conditions. Because of this society is divided into two, the rich genetically engineered people who can land any job they want and an underclass of 'faith' births, people with the likelihood of having genetic defects, people who from birth destined to work in lowly jobs. One of them is Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), a man who dreams of going into space, a man with obvious intelligence and determination but discriminated because it is predicted that he will die at 30. Vincent assumes the identity of Jerome Eugene Morrow (Jude Law), a disabled man with the right genetic make-up. Everything seems to be going well, Vincent has been picked to go on a mission to Saturn's moon Titan, but his life's ambition is put under threat when a man in murdered and Vincent becomes a suspect just because of his DNA.
The obvious theme of Gattaca is the idea of prejudice that always been in some form or another. In this future race is not a way to discriminate but of course based on genetic make-up, believing that they are destined to a certain path in life no matter what their actually physical state or mental abilities. It forces an underclass into a vicious circle of low expectations and life of self-fulfilling prophecy. A modern parallel is the American Health Insurance industry where people are discriminated against if they have a pre-existing condition or dodgy family history and if its discovered that someone has been lying then their cover is ended, it a industry that looks to avoid paying out, it is a horrible amoral industry.
Added to that police would suspect someone from the underclass because they have a tendency to be more violence, almost like racism in the police where they question someone because of their background intend of looking at other evidence. And someone could be cold and cunning to murder someone without being violence.
But there is also a positive theme that despite any artificial disadvantage it can be overcome if someone is willing, determined and able enough. And that how I feel in real life if you are willing to work hard and keep trying then you should be able to achieve your goals.
There is also a theme of identity, that someone has to steal someone else's identity so he could fulfil his ambition and deny himself. There is an even bigger issue because Vincent was pretty much rejected by his family because they did not support their son, wanted him to accept his 'limitations'. It could even be played that the son was rejected for being like mixed-raced or gay, but maybe I am just overreading it.
Another idea explored is it man's place to play God with itself or simply let nature take its course? Wouldn't any parent want to give their child the best chance in live a good life. It is certainly an issue that is around today because of IVF and it could be taken further and further.
I really like the world that Nicoll created. It was a deliberately understated world, a cold world and that makes this world more believable. There seems to be references to great sci-fi like A Brave New World and Metropolis particularly with the ideas of two different classes, the wealth upper class and the underclass that does all the grunt work. There is a period feel to the because of the cars and the dress, particularly the police who look like they are from the 1950s. He made really interest, intelligence film that does not drag at all and keeps it in a tight package.
Acting wise there is nothing remarkable but the film the plot and the characterisation was able to make up for it. To me Jude Law was the best performer, starting off as a arrogant and better man who grows to be a more interesting and in-depth man and it was interesting to see him interplay with Hawke. Gore Vidal seemed to be decent enough actor for someone who is not a trained actor. Vincent himself was a very interesting and well development someone who is determined yet faulted, someone who is believable now, let alone in Gattaca's internal reality.
A final little note, Michael Nyman provides an excellent classical score, added to the upper class, period feel to this film.
If you are looking for a big action, special effects driven sci-fi film, Gattaca is not for you. Gattaca is a very intelligence sci-fi film, taking you into its own version of the future and society could change.
After the breathtaking 110 minutes of Gattaca, I felt as if I've never
seen a Sci-fi movie so fertilized, so masterfully written and executed.
At the time of its releasing Gattace was rejected by me because of its lack in scale and thrills. Or more explicitly, it's neither Independence Day nor Titanic. And serious drama's marriage with Science Fiction had not been very successful with a few exceptions like Blade Runner. And Gattaca is not intended for 11-year-old.
However, after all these years I only regret I didn't see Gattaca earlier. This movie had so much great qualities. From the very beginning, Gattaca had provided the audiences with a sad, blusman-like undertone in which the story expanded. Ethan Hawk's role had a puny, weak feeling attached, echoing the the millions of "nobodies" outside the big screen. When the story entered the 2nd Act, this sad, lament-like tone even sharpened like a very accurate prediction to the near-future, or more accurately, to our very present. Yes, Gattaca is probably the most beautiful lament for human civilization, explaining its crude, inhuman nature and the human souls' struggles in it. Nowadays it's the information era that whoever controls the information controls the world, and Gattaca built its concept on modern days and even expanded it further in a totally convincing way. Actually one can complain about the technically obsoleted visions for futuristic technologies, like the computers Ethan Hawke used are totally like kindergarten stuffs in a 2009 perspective. But anyone paying too much attention to those things very sadly missed the point of Gattaca. With limited budget and scale, it actually managed to absorb everything a functional society can offer into its simplistic but beautiful scenes. Like if you notice, the polluted, green-colored sea and the lifeless, metallic streets can make you sigh, and certainly touches your heart in a different approach than Star Wars or Aliens. Gattaca is a proof that a great sci-fi movie doesn't have to have flying cars or big explosions.
I don't want to expose too much of the story, but can only tell you that this is probably the most stunning and convincing sci-fi story ever told on the big screen. Our world had long been dragged in that way for too long and this movie only followed the world's pattern and asked several hypothetical questions. The result? You will be awed. Phillip K Dick will also smile if he saw this.
The characters are all great thanks to the superb directing and performances. Ethan Hawke for instance is great in his nervous, witted impersonating character, reflecting Jude Law's pessimistic and broken role. Uma Thurman and Hawke were really very electrical and made the audiences speculate in as many ways as the director wanted them to. Still, the supporting cast was also superb, drawing this beautiful pictures from all directions, and finally accomplished this one of a kind sci-fi story.
I am actually lucky to see this movie back to back with Simone, which was also directed by Andrew Niccol. Now the two movies are both in my favorite Sci-fi collection.
10/10. It deserved more attention by Academy than just Art Decoration set.
Throughout history, man is forever dreaming of being able to select his own off spring. Arguably, the reason being to avoid the physical imperfections of the past. Convinced this is the best of all possible worlds, science is striving to achieve what is likely to be a double-edge sword. Nevertheless, this futuristic film tells the story of two brothers. One is a natural born child named Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) who is diagnosed with a heart defect which supposedly will prevent him from space travel. The second is Genetically selected Anton Freeman (Elias Koteas) who is born with the 'perfect' traits to insure a healthy and productive member of the elite. Learning he will be unable to fulfill his dream of becoming a ship's navigator, because of his 'imperfections' Vincent is determined not to be prevented by society's prejudicial restrictions. With the help of a specialist, he locates an ideal subject named Jerome Morrow (Jude Law) who is willing (for a price) to sell his identity. With this new cover name, Vincent begins his quest for space. However even as the years pass and he is finally selected, an incident takes place which endangers his efforts. The director of Space programs is found murdered and everyone working for the company is informed the Police will be on the premises seeking the killer. The movie is dramatic and the story proves exciting as our hero tries to beat the system, the police and the latests in scientific tools and methods. This includes Vincent's perfect brother who is now a determined detective. Audience members should be on the look out for the familiar faces of Ernest Borgnine, Gore Vidal and Alan Arkin playing Det. Hugo. The film has already garnered much acclamation, praise and due to its prophetic subject will in all likelihood, become a Classic. ****
When I saw GATTACA, I was amazed by the film because although it was
mass marketed, it seemed to have a depth to it you just don't expect
from films--particularly in recent years. In fact, this film was sort
of an "anti-Hollywood film" because unlike the trend, this movie
actually avoided special effects and costly sets--instead concentrating
on the story. It was nice to see that a film wasn't "dumbed down" for
the public but was designed to make you think and challenge you.
The story is set in the near future. Space travel is more common, though who gets to travel is the problem. You see, genetic manipulation and perfection have become the norm and so only the very best and brightest specimens get to be astronauts. So, if you were one of the unfortunates in society who was NOT the product of genetic engineering, you cannot possibly hope to join the program but are cursed to be a second-class citizen. While this may initially sound crazy, given science's progress in recent years on creating "designer babies" where parents can not only choose the gender of their children but even the genetics, it seems quite plausible. The world of GATTACA could easily become our world in our life time.
Into this snobbish world of space travel enters an interloper. Ethan Hawke plays a man who wants to be in the program but he's cursed with being normal. So, through some very complex fakery, he is able to sneak into the astronaut training program and tries very hard to remain undetected. Where exactly all this goes is something you need to see for yourself.
As I mentioned above, this film really makes you think. I am a teacher and was shocked that many of my students actually enjoyed the film, even though conventional thinking is that such a complex movie is probably of no interest to kids--just old farts like me. Well, it isn't true and for once I am happy to report that a film dares to try to make you think! The only negative, and it's not huge, is the very ending. While I love low cost films, the clothing the astronauts wore when entering the rocket seemed silly and anti-climactic. Perhaps a few dollars more spent on the final scenes might have been money well spent.
Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is one of the last "natural" babies born into a
genetically-enhanced world, where life expectancy and disease
likelihood are ascertained at birth. Due to die at 30, he has no chance
of a career in a society that now discriminates against your genes,
instead of your gender, race or religion. Going underground, he assumes
the identity of Jerome (Jude Law), who was genetically engineered but
was crippled in an accident, and achieves prominence in the Gattaca
Corporation, where he is selected for his lifelong desire: a manned
mission to the planet Titan. Constantly passing gene tests by using
samples of Jerome's hair, skin, blood and urine, his dream is within
reach, when the mission director is killed - and Vincent's eyelash is
found at the scene. With the once-in-a-lifetime launch only days away,
Vincent must avoid arousing suspicion, while passing the tests, evading
the police, and not knowing who he can trust.
This movie covers many themes; imperfection (and whether there is such a thing), mortality, prejudice, and the power of human determination. The movie opens with a quote from the bible, "What God hath made crooked, let no man make straight." The jacket of the movie will tell you that it stars Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, but the real star of the movie and the character with the most depth, is Jerome, played by Jude Law. Law gives a poignant performance as Jerome, once a genetically perfect, award winning athlete who was hit by a car and crippled from the waist down. He is a complex character, at once eager to once more have a purpose in helping Vincent achieve his dream, but at the same time, angry at the way his value as a person disappeared after his accident. In the end, when his help is no longer needed by Vincent, he makes a stunning decision that shows the audience the real impact of the society's hostility towards imperfection.
This is one of my favorite movies of all-time - mostly for the story,
not necessarily the acting, though it has great actors/actresses. I
loved this movie so much I showed it in a class I taught, Law &
Society, paralleling the discrimination to that of the Civil Rights
It has the inspiration of Rocky, a quality story without unrealistic qualities, and great actors.
Moreover, this is a sci-fi, future flick that does not "overdo" it. It does not give a date, only states "near future" and does not have ridiculously futuristic objects and philosophies.
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