Gattaca (1997) – Andrew Niccol

 

The 101 Sci-Fi Movies brings us a tale that could be a possible future, where we can improve ourselves genetically before birth, and that defines who we are and what we can do with our lives.

A decidedly future-noir film, this one features a stand out cast, Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin, Elias Koteas and Xander Berkeley. Hawke plays Vincent Freeman, a god’s child, or natural birth, who sees his life completely curtailed by his own DNA. Read at birth, it’s revealed that there’s a high percentage to him suffering from a heart defect, as such, he’s a risk, physically that no one will take on, including schooling.

His above average intellilgence helps him though and he educates himself, fostering his dreams of visiting the stars, to explore. However, there’s no way he can even get into Gattaca, the site that oversees all the launches and training except in the cleaning department, which is overseen by Ernest Borgnine.

Eventually, he hits on a plan, and becomes a stolen ladder. One of the genetic elite, Jerome Eugene Morrow (Law) a former Olympic silver medalist, suffered an accident abroad which has put him in a wheel chair for the rest of his life. Living vicariously through Vincent, Jerome supplies him with the bodily fluids Vincent needs to take over his identity, while keeping his physical remnants to a bare minimum at work, cleaning up after himself constantly, not even leaving a dead skin cell.

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He also observes a strict morning ritual that scrubs away any dead skin, burns his clothes, anything that can link him to his actual identity.

Everything seems to be going well, he’s finally been chosen for a year-long round exploratory trip to Titan, just as a romance with his co-worker Irene (Thurman) blossoms.

It gets worse when the program’s director is murdered, and Vincent finds himself being hunted as an Invalid.

Toying with ideas of whether we should be improving ourselves genetically or not, and how that would redefine who we are as not only people but as a society (it forms a strict new caste system, judging not on race, religion or sex but genes), it also commends the human spirit and ingenuity, as Vincent, despite being told that he can’t do a thing over and over again, does it.

Everything in this world seems sleek and pretty, especially among the genetic elite, smart, attractive, fit, while the others, the Invalids, are dressed down, and look a little more slovenly and because of one factor or another, are denied a chance at being something more than a menial worker.

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I love the look of the film, the clothes style has a nice nod to 40s-era noir, sharp suits, Alan Arkin’s costume in particular. It’s never confirmed but I think Arkin’s detective is probably a god’s child from before genetics really took over every field, and he’s climbed to his position by his smarts, and deductive skills.

There is one thing that played as a little too coincidental, but works within the context of the themes of the movie, so I let it go.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this film, as everyone turns in a strong performance, and for me, I always delight when Arkin or Berkely show up in a film.

What did you think of it?

ethan

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