106 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, October 24, 1997
Written & directed by Andrew Niccol
Starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Alan Arkin, Loren Dean, Gore Vidal, Ernest Borgnine, Tony Shalhoub, Blair Underwood
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 15%|
LETTERBOX: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Just as psychologically engaging on the box, but wide-screen is highly recommended to really take in the gorgeous photography and simple but fantastic production design.
VIDEO RELEASE: 1998
Interesting selection of deleted scenes, including an ominous closing-credits coda listing some important historical figures that would have never been born in a world of genetic selection like the on depicted in the film.|
OTHER NOTABLE BONUS MATERIAL
Excellent trailer, photo gallery, poster gallery, HBO-style featurette.
2:35:1 or 1.33:1 ratio
Dolby 5.1, 2.0
DUBS: Spanish, French
SUBS: English, Spanish, French
DVD RATING: ***
Stylish sci-fi noir 'Gattaca' depicts ominous possible future of designer DNA discrimination, investigation
Any omen-of-the-future movie inevitably owes much of its mood and theme to "1984" and "Brave New World." What it does to distinguish itself from these classics is what makes or breaks the movie.
"Gattaca" is the most original and visionary movie of its ilk in a long time. It embraces the long shadows cast by George Orwell and Aldus Huxley, then goes its own way in a caustic tale of discrimination and genetic engineering largely devoid of the usual sci-fi cheese.
Set in a disturbingly possible near future in which most kids are genetically engineered for brains, looks and talent, the story of "Gattaca" is about the clandestine struggle for equality of Vincent (Ethan Hawke), a "faith born" whose parents just did it in the back seat of a car and nine months later had a baby.
Restricted to a lower caste and blue collar work because he isn't genetically predisposed to anything better, Vincent purchases the identity of a designer human on the black market so he can chase his dreams of exploring space.
Deliberate in its restrained pacing and attention to detail, "Gattaca" toys with our natural fear of science run amuck.
Writer-director Andrew Niccol knows we humans consider ourselves the pinnacle of evolution and he carefully sustains an unsettling atmosphere by making it perfectly clear we are a step down on the food chain to the evolutionary aristocracy in this test-tube world.
Vincent is our Everyman, and to pass for one of the elite he must delete his own identity on a cellular level because every day he is scanned, poked and proded for DNA to pass security checks.
Enter Jerome Morrow (Jude Law), a specimen of genetic perfection until he was paralyzed in a car accident. Now useless in the eyes of this society, he sells samples of his high-rent genes, blood and urine to Vincent, who then becomes Jerome for all practical purposes.
He gets his dream job at the space agency, he meets a fabulous babe (Uma Thurman, who is little more than scenery here) and he lives well until the head of his space agency is murdered and a single eyelash found at the scene threatens to expose his charade and frame him for murder in one chromosomal swoop.
Both thematically and visually, "Gattaca" is a seductive -- the kind of movie that tends to inspire lengthy discussions after the credits roll.
More than that, it doesn't insult the audience by being simple. The murder investigation is highly complex as are Vincent's awkward relationships with his custom-designed brother and with the real Jerome.
The striking future-retro look created by production designer Jan Roelfs ("Orlando") and the shadowy, angular cinematography by Slawomir Idziak ("Blue") are memorable, but neither distract from the story. The film seems full of deep, rich colors even though it is shot largely in muted greys, blacks and golds, perhaps playing on the things- aren't- always- what- they- seem motif.
Because it is so meticulous in its hounding on themes of physical perfection and discrimination, "Gattaca" occasionally begs a question about how Vincent gets away with smoking or having such crooked teeth. Niccol's script is also a little erratic in its application of the underlying social commentary.
But nit-picking aside, this is a thought-provoking, visionary science fiction film that recalls the best and most disquieting of futuristic fables. I almost want to compare it to "2001," but that would be overstating my point somewhat.
Niccol is a talented storyteller who succeeds in balancing arresting style and provocative substance, even if he is a little uneven about it.