Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Gore Vidal, Jude Law, Xander berkeley, Jayne Brook, Elias
Koteas, Maya Rudolph, Ernest Borgine
1997, 112 Minutes, Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Description:Gattaca depicts a
near-future society in which one's personal and professional destiny is
determined by one's genes. In this society, "Valids" (genetically engineered)
qualify for positions at prestigious corporations, such as Gattaca, which grooms
its most qualified employees for space exploration. "In-Valids" (naturally
born), such as the film's protagonist, Vincent (Ethan Hawke), are deemed
genetically flawed and subsequently fated to low-level occupations in a
genetically caste society. With the help of a disabled "Valid" (Jude Law),
Vincent subverts his society's social and biological barriers to pursue his
dream of space travel; any random mistake--and an ongoing murder investigation
at Gattaca--could reveal his plot. —
Hardly a day seems to go by without some researchers
claiming to have discovered the gene for this condition or the gene for that affliction.
If we are to believe these researchers, everything from obesity and myopia to
homosexuality and manic depression can be attributed to our genetic make-up. Humanity, as
we know it, seems to be reduced to a genetic sequence.
Of course, if the sum of our being can be attributed to genetics, then it only
follows that it can be engineered. That is the premise behind the sci-fi thriller Gattaca.
Set in a "not-so-distant future" (as the opening credits inform us), Gattaca
deals with a future where it is possible genetically engineer all these
"defects" out of new-born children. Not only can you as parent request that your
children will not one day be afflicted by any debilitating heart diseases or other
illnesses, you can also specify that they not suffer from any other "defects" -
such as the tendency to fall prey to depression, acts of violence, "suffer" from
Obviously people genetically engineered this way (think Hitlers Übermensch
come to real life and youll get the picture) will have an edge in the workplace over
those who are not.
"One of the few recent science fiction
movies that do not rely on a brain dead plot and special effects
pyrotechnics . . ."
And thus the plot of Gattaca: Ethan Hawke, one of the genetic
have-nots in this brave new world (called "in-valids" in the movie) wants
to desperately become an astronaut, but obviously cannot because of his untampered-with
birth. He thus begins a deception by posing as a so-called "valid" to become an
astronaut at a major space exploration company. He does this "borrowing" the
blood, urine, hair and skin cells of a "valid" who has been crippled in an
accident to pass the numerous tests one have to undergo to get and stay in the training
course. But then a murder occurs at the company, some of his real hair gets picked up and
soon the Ethan Hawke character is the prime suspect. Can he maintain his deception when
the human body sheds several million cells each day - every single one of them betraying
his true identity?
Gattaca is a rarity. Along with Contact it counts as one of the few recent science fiction movie
efforts that do not rely on a brain dead plot, extensive special effects and
pyrotechnics, but instead on an interesting plot and its characters. However, unlike Contact,
one isnt that much drawn into its basic premise. To start with, some of
the science is
plain wrong. (Urine samples for instance cannot be used for genetic testing as
is claimed in the movie. Or that is according to Sidney Perkowitz's excellent
book Hollywood Science: Movies, Science & the End of the World. Read it
is the old "man shouldnt interfere with nature" theme rehashed and speaks
more to our ages current misinformed technophobic fears than anything else. Say
genetics and everybody thinks eugenics - the old Nazi humbug of creating perfect Aryan
types. Furthermore, the film doesnt always maintain the level of suspense required
to make it a completely engrossing affair. Like the future it portrays, Gattaca
is too detached and sterile.
However, despite its flaws, Gattaca is to be commended. It is a step in the
right direction for the sci-fi genre, being more cerebral than visceral. So soon after
viewing the blood and gore ridden Alien Resurrection it was
truly refreshing to see a film that doesnt rely on violence and explosions at all.
Instead it has a more novelistic approach as it meticulously constructs its 1950s retro Blade Runner-like future world - and this emersion into plausible
other worlds is after all the point of sci-fi.
Just imagine if the world of Gattaca really existed one
day . . .
Sci-Fi Movie Page Pick:Old-fashioned
in that it has a story and a message . . .Cautionary tale about the misuse of genetic science may
be as sterile as the future world it depicts, but it's still solid science
fiction - something lacking in many recent movies bearing the same label . . .
Top 100 Sci-Fi
of all time