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'Gattaca', the 1997 sci-fi film, has definitely done its part in adding
to the culture of cult films around the world. Whether it's the
disturbingly familiar future-society that the film depicts, the ethical
and moral nightmare scenarios that it entails, or something
subliminally appealing, this piece of film found its audience and
cemented its place in history.
In the 'not-too-distant future', the world of genetics has expanded to previously unimaginable proportions, wherein a person's entire life story can be told with just a drop of blood or a strand of hair. In this post-genetics world, science has perfected the art of life; children are no longer born biologically, but rather their parents give their sperm and eggs to laboratories and they deliver the best child that can be produced from these genes. Children who were not conceived this way are referred to as "in-valids" and society deems them accordingly. It's a whole new type of discrimination, but one that Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) is not willing to accept.
Vincent is an in-valid who has always had the dream of going into space. Refusing to accept his pre-determined life, Vincent consequently adopts the identity of another man whose genes make him 'valid'. Jerome Morrow (Jude Law) agrees to let Vincent have his identity if he will provide Jerome with a place to live. Using samples from Jerome's body disguised as his own (blood, urine, hair), Vincent becomes employed in the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation as Jerome Morrow and after many years in the job, he is finally given the opportunity to go up into space on one of Gattaca's frequent launches.
When the director of the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation is murdered, however, investigations into the crime put into question Vincent's true identity, and he soon finds that his long deception could be unraveled and his life-long dream could be shot down in flames. With only fellow colleague Irene (Uma Thurman) and Jerome on his side, Vincent must race against the powers that are trying to put him back into the social hole he was supposedly born into and put an end to the life he has worked so hard to build.
The film has a very sorrowful approach to what sounds initially like a very lame plot. It's cinematic and stylistic without being pretentious or overdone, and the way it is shot and put together reflects very well the film's bland and sterilized society in pursuit of perfection. The chilling sense of realism that goes with the world of Gattaca makes everything within it become more than just a strange concept in a science fiction film. Not unlike Spielberg's 'A.I.', Gattaca very cleverly draws from horrors within our society today to suggest the terrifying prospect that our science will eventually render us, as a natural species, obsolete.
Director Andrew Niccol has done a fine job in transforming this sci-fi flick into something much deeper and more interesting. The writing is not spectacular, but is still better than most. Hawke's narration provides very good atmosphere for the film as he talks about the way of the world in this eerie future and the film's theme is very secure, with events such as the murder being practically irrelevant. The thing that matters most is Vincent's dream and the social inequalities that prevent him from actualizing it, and this is made very clear from beginning to end.
The acting performances are all very adequate, but the stand-out ones are Ethan Hawke and Jude Law, who seem so comfortable in their characters and, truth be told, share more chemistry than Hawke and Thurman do. This was one of Jude Law's first feature films, and it is a remarkably impressive debut.
Basically, this is a film that says what it means. Even in a world that has successfully bred perfection, people still suffer, the system is still unjust and lives still go to waste. Far from just being an unrealistic portrayal of what the future will hold, 'Gattaca' questions the ideals of mankind, the principles of civilization and leaves us to wonder what we, as a society are truly striving for.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Gattaca was not average by any means. I feel I must rate it a five
though, not for being mediocre, but for being excellent in some areas
and utter tripe in others. The premise of this movie is an interesting
one: that genetic engineering will produce a ruling class of post-human
elitists. However, this film is simply too unbelievable to effectively
make any sort of point.
Vincent, played by Ethan Hawke, is a child conceived naturally during a time where that sort of conception is considered passé. Unfortunately for him, all the good jobs require a genetic screening to weed out less-than-perfect candidates, and his dream of becoming an astronaut is made extraordinarily difficult due to his bad genes. In fact, he actually has to hire Jude Law, who has really good genes, to allow him to take blood and tissue samples so he can pretend to have good genes too.
Throughout this movie there are many, many times where the plot was simply too unbelievable to allow me to enjoy this movie. First of all, the sheer number of DNA tests that people in this movie were subjected to was simply over the top. Employees of the center where Vincent worked had to have their fingers pricked constantly. For an agency that's looking to attract the best and the brightest, I can't think of a better way to drive them away. I give blood to the Red Cross every four months, and that finger prick they make everyone endure still drives me crazy. Many nurses have told me that it's the same with just about everyone. In the end, this all turns out to be rather useless for their purposes, as Vincent gets around the DNA tests and the infernal finger-pricking with latex pouches of Jude Law's blood glued onto his fingertips.
Of course that's just a detail, but nevertheless it's a detail that stood out to me. More important is the fact that Vincent doesn't show any signs of being a genetic cripple, save for his thick glasses. Judging by the list of his disorders they rattled off at the beginning, he is not, as you might suspect, a retarded obese midget, but reasonably good-looking, extremely motivated, and very intelligent. One of the points this movie seems to be trying to make is that your genes don't really affect who you are, but clearly they do.
There are some more ridiculous scenes. Vincent claims that despite the genetically determined prediction that he would die young due to coronary problems, his "heart is a thousand beats overdue." Just for kicks I figured out how long it'd take for a heart to beat one thousand times, and it's about 15 minutes. If that were all, I wouldn't be so optimistic. Then there were the spaceships, manned by a staff with impeccably gelled hair wearing suits and ties. Then there was the assumption that Jude Law's character was a failure, despite winning only a silver medal in the Olympics. Considering the sheer number of genetically perfect athletes, I'd say second place is pretty good. Then there were the showers that cleaned themselves with flamethrowers, yet had no safety features to prevent the inevitable.
I could keep listing things, like the way all the DNA tests seemed to be designed so that a determined person could barely beat them, but that would be pointless. It all serves to show that despite this film being an obvious work of science fiction, the science was usually obscured by art and marketability. That's not to say Gattaca isn't worth seeing; it certainly is. It was done very artistically, and there are many things to be appreciated here including the excellent performances by the cast.
Most people agree that there are two types of science fiction: that set in its own universe and that set in ours. Gattaca was clearly meant to be in the latter group. However, a science fiction story set in our universe must abide by the same laws as we do, which is something that this movie did not do. If this were its only fault, I would have rated this film higher, but alas, it was not.
This movie is rife with symbolism. I show it to my biology classes
every year. After seeing it 6x per year during each class, for eight
years, it never ceases to amaze me how I see something new and
different each time I watch it. This year, I noticed the themes of
swimming and stars:
SWIMMING: Eugene - an Olympic swimmer; the swimming competition between Anton and Vincent-- and later Anton working out in a lap pool because he has never come to grips with the fact that Vincent beat him swimming. I wonder why the swimming theme was used in the screen play? My students have hypothesized that perhaps it means a "baptism" or "cleansing" but that's all speculation.
STARS: "Reach for the stars" -- setting high goals for yourself and working to achieve them. Stars are shown several times as they gaze into the sky Titan is the destination -- a moon of Saturn which appears as a star in our telescopes Astronauts "They say every atom in our bodies was once a part of a star. Maybe I'm not leaving, maybe I'm going home." -- a quote by Vincent.
Last year I realized for the first time the names of the characters: "Eugene" - or "True Gene" "Eu"= truth and "gene" = to create or to cause.
Vincent's last name is "Freeman" ... free from being a prisoner of DNA as he escapes its grasp and uses his spirit and determination to succeed.
(I felt stupid never thinking about those names before.)
The more you watch the movie, the more you begin to see.
My students' favorite part every year is how the silver medal turns "gold" as seen through the flames of the incinerator.
Age discrimination is another theme that is subtle. The "in-valids" they are testing in town are all older fellows, the killed director was young, his replacement under him, was old. The detective was older, and his boss Anton, was young.
"Gattaca" (1997 - 112 minutes) is one of the best scientific fiction movies of the 90 years. Deep, overwhelming and controversial, it was written and directed by Andrew Niccol. Gattaca, the name of a specific DNA strain sequence of the human body, is also the denomination of a space trip megacorporation. The society described in the narrative adopts the genetic manipulation to improve the attributes of each human being. In fact, the people are classified as "valids" [or perfect conceived in laboratory] and "invalids" [conceived by the natural method]. Vincent Freeman [the actor Ethan Hawke] is one of "invalids" having to support his stigma of birth, beyond other imperfections. He has an illness that limits his life to 30 years - in contrast to his younger brother, Anton [Loren Dean], that was designed genetically and is a member of the elite. But Vincent did not accept his destiny. He aims for changing his life and fulfill his dreams, traveling to other planets. To qualify himself as a space pilot, the young one would have to be "perfect" or "valid". As in that society the identity of someone was not confirmed by documents but by their genes, Vincent perceives that he has to turn himself into another person to obtain what he wants. Through a DNA trader, he knows Jerome Eugene Morrow [the actor Jude Law], a superior being that was paralyzed in an accident and was excluded from the society. Using samples of blood, hair, skin and urine of Jerome, Vincent assumes his identity, becoming a navigator. Vincent also falls in love for the pretty Irene [the actress Uma Thurman], his colleague in Gattaca, that does not know his true identity. One week before the space mission, a murder in Gattaca starts an inquiry led for Anton, that is a policeman. Vincent is in a great danger to be discovered. The main message of the film is that there is no genes for the spirit. Extraordinary.
How this movie is not in the top 250 is beyond belief. This was an
amazing movie with wonderful acting, not to mention a wonderful story.
Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman deserve more credit for their roles played
in this movie, as does Jude Law. But how can anyone ignore the story, I
truly believe this to be a warning for the "Not to Distant Future."
Genetic discrimination is truly possible, or, I should say, will be possible within all of our futures. Science is making progress by leaps and bounds, and is doing so at an ever rapid pace. To ignore the warning set forth in this movie would be a travesty.
If you listen closely to the news you can hear the progress, every day, "Science Advances Again," "New Cloning Procedure Tested." These are the headlines of science, buried deep within the newspapers of America, where, by the way, all the interesting news lies.
The sheer tactfulness of how this movie analyzes the future is classy, the colors of the movie are well balanced with the seriousness of the movies tone, and only add more to a movie that seems to have it all. The suits, hair styles and modernistic architecture also add to the movie's brilliance and tone.
This is a clever movie, "GATTACA" as everyone reading this probably knows, is a combination of the first letters of the four amino acids in DNA, as any introductory biology class would teach you, which is also why they show this movie in most Biology classes across America, and it is also where I first saw it.
I can only give my highest rating for GATTACA, it is a great movie, and watching it over and over again only adds to the experience. My official rating is 8.4/10.
The production design of this movie is so perfect it is almost enough to
like this movie already. Every scene looks great and together with a good
cinematography it gives the movie a beautiful appearance. This is a science
fiction movie with ideas instead of mindless action, and for some reason the
look of the complete movie adds to this idea.
The story is set in the near future. Babies can be born the natural way or parents can genetically produce their child and make them as good as flawless. Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is born the natural way and therefore he has less chances than most others. His dream is to go in space but since he is an "In-Valid" as they call it in the movie, he probably never will. Then he finds a way to make his dreams real. A "Valid" person named Jerome (Jude Law) has lost the use of his legs and although he is almost perfect he can't do much without them. Vincent and Jerome become a team. Since every part of the body that contains DNA can betray you, Jerome has to give Vincent his blood samples, urine samples, hair, etc. and Vincent has a chance to enter the space program.
He is selected to go to Titan, one of Saturn's moons, and a person who was against this mission is suddenly murdered. An eyelash is found and it belongs to Vincent, of course, but since not Vincent but Jerome is working there at first he is not a suspect. Will he be discovered? In this way the suspense comes from more than one way. We have the murder case with the detectives (played by Alan Arkin and Loren Dean) trying to solve it, we are not sure whether Vincent has something to do with it, we don't know who suspects what, Vincent can be discovered anytime. He can be discovered by anyone as well, including the girl he is seeing. Her name is Irene (Uma Thurman). The story can sound a little complicated to you, but it definitely is not. Everything is pretty clear to us and although there are some surprises it is all done in a logical way.
Like I said everything looks great. The direction is important for that as well, and the actors find the perfect note to play their parts. Hawke is probably the perfect actor for the leading role here, Thurman does pretty well and Law is the best thing in every scene he is in. The supporting characters including Alan Arkin, Loren Dean, Ernest Borgnine, Xander Berkeley and Gore Vidal are also perfectly cast.
A drama without family deaths, a thriller without guns and explosions, a science fiction without aliens, what a relieve.
Gattaca is one of the best science-fiction movie I ever saw. It is almost
perfect in the form. The photography is extremely good. Buildings and
social organisation are just weird enough to feel different but not THAT
different. The music is excellent, as usual from Michael Nyman. And the
actors are ... Well, Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke and Jude Law. Do we need to
comment on that?
Let's now turn to the plot: It is original, interesting, full of suspense and scary. And here is the first scary bit: It is not science-fiction at all. We can already genotype people. I can do it. It just take a little bit more time and material than in the movie. But basically we're there. And the second scary bit is: This is not a movie about discriminating people based on disabilities, as it was often told. It is a movie about discriminating people based on the possibility that they could maybe get disabled in the future! Does it ring a bell to people interacting with insurance companies?
Gattaca is a disturbing vision of what the future may provide. Gattaca
the concept of George Orwell's 1984 and pushes it even further. Not only
big brother watching, but they are genetically engineering babies, and
taking blood and urine samples on a daily basis to segregate the "strong"
from the "weak". Hitler would have been proud of what "this" America has
Gattaca is a visually stunning film. It has a very sterile and sleek look which matches the mechanical future it is trying to present. At times the film itself appears neither black or white, nor in color. It is a hybrid of the two that is very artistic and modern.
Overall, Gattaca is a very good film, that could have been great. At times this film dragged out and left me wanting a little more action. Besides the occasional lull, I still felt strong enough about Gattaca to give it a 7 out of 10 stars.
Science fiction isn't my favourite genre (I'm more of a human dramas, dark comedies fan - or anything that involves more flesh and less steel), but there are some titles of this genre that fascinate me. "Gattaca" is one of them. This is probably the best sci-fi of the 90's, a thoroughly engaging, entertaining and fascinating story about a genetically imperfect man (Ethan Hawke) who assumes the identity of a member of the genetic elite (Jude Law), but lives a nightmare when he becomes the main suspect of a murder. The film is set in a "not-too-distant-future" and although the technology we see is quite advanced, it doesn't rely on special effects to dazzle our eyes (the discreet but stylish art-direction is a feast for the eyes, nonetheless, and Michael Nyman provides a great musical score). This is great storytelling with emotional punch and provocative ideas, and although it's not fast paced enough for the Michael Bay generation, it's not complicated like, say, Kubrick's monumental classic-puzzle "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) or Terry Gilliam's "12 Monkeys" (1995, another great, if not flawed, sci-fi of the 90's) - which means it can be enjoyed by anyone who likes a good story. Quite possibly the most fascinating - and underrated - sci-fi tale of the decade (oh, and Uma Thurman is always a pleasure to watch!). 10/10.
A genetically inferior man (Ethan Hawke) assumes the identity of a
superior one (Jude Law) in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space
With all due respect to "The Matrix", this may be the key science fiction story of the 1990s. It has enough basis in reality to be a good story, but still a big enough divergence to make us think. We are moving closer and closer to "designer babies". Are we going to create anew caste system? Is it morally acceptable to do so?
This is also a story of potential. One character says potential cannot be exceeded. But is he right? We also see potential is no guarantee. Identity is not destiny -- one stray bullet and the promise of the future can be shattered. Ho much of the world can humanity control, and how much is impossible to plan?
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