Gattaca (1997) / Sci Fi-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, language, and some sexuality
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Alan Arkin, Gore Vidal, Xander Berkeley, Ernest Borgnine, Elias Koteas, Jayne Brook, Blair Underwood, Tony Shalhoub, Maya Rudolph
Director: Andrew Niccol
Screenplay: Andrew Niccol
Review published April 24, 1998
Sometime in the near future, as the opening credits state, human beings are genetically produced so that they have the best traits possible. It is expected that these "valid" humans succeed and become mental and physical specimen of the highest order, while the non-genetically enhanced humans do such laborious chores as janitorial work.
Ethan Hawke (Before Sunrise, Mystery Date) plays Vincent, a child born with all of the genetic flaws that nature meant him to have, including a 30 year expected lifespan due to a heart condition known since birth. Unfortunately for Vincent, his medical condition prevents him from attaining his dream goal of traveling in space, which only la crème de la crème (i.e. the genetically superior "valid" humans) can participate in. After growing up with a genetically superior older brother most of his life, and suffering by comparison, Vincent ventures forth on his own and soon comes up with a plan that just might get him on a shuttle to space after all.
Enter Jerome (Jude Law, The Talented Mr. Ripley): a genetically superior medal-winning swimmer turned lame after a traffic accident, who donates his blood, urine, and other items used in validity tests so that Vincent can assume Jerome's identity long enough to fool the directors of space travel and get him aboard the shuttle of his dreams. A monkey wrench is thrown in the works when the mission director is found murdered and Vincent's real DNA is found at the scene. Can Vincent get on board the shuttle flight before the police detectives find him first?
Wow. Usually, I can sum up the plot of the movie in one paragraph. Gattaca is so complex, there are still many things I have left out of the description, including Uma Thurman (A Month by the Lake, Mad Dog and Glory), the costar of the film.
Complexity basically sums up Gattaca, as it operates on many different levels; the film is quite deep. Sumptuously photographed in amber and symmetrically quite beautiful in its design, loving attention is paid to every aspect of the production, right down to the spiral staircase that resembles a DNA helix in Jerome's apartment.
Andrew Niccol (The Truman Show, Simone) makes an amazing debut here, both as a writer and a director, and single-handedly pulls off what would have been an overcooked bore into a complex, thought-provoking, and ultimately moving film. Ethan Hawke and Jude Law are outstanding in their respective roles.
Gattaca is top-notch science fiction of the highest order, almost as perfect as the genetically superior creations the film is inspired by.
©1998 Vince Leo