Gattaca (PG-13)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman

Contents: Minor gory scene

Rating: 6

Summary: Ethan Hawke plays Vincent, a young man who dreams of space travel. However, in this somewhat dystopia-like future, everyone is judged not by skin color or background, but by the content of their genes. Vincent has a congenital heart defect, which prevents his enrollment in the space program. So instead, he turns to using the genes of a crippled (but gene-enhanced) man named Jerome, assuming his identity and using it to attain his dream.

Interesting Tidbits:

bulletOpening scenes: what looks like sheets of plastic and cabling dropping to the ground turn out to be dead skin and hairs from Ethan shaving.
bulletThe feeling of uniformity created by everyone wearing dark suits and/or dark clothing
bulletThe women getting the men they have just kissed "gene-scanned" by taking a sample of saliva from their own mouths.
bulletEnding scenes: I wonder if Sax Fifth Avenue is responsible for the new meaning of space-SUIT...

This film is much more cerebral than your average science fiction movie. It explores themes that have been a staple to science fiction literature for some time: is a man simply the product of his genetic inheritance? Can he make himself more than that? The film answers these questions as "no" and "yes".

A week before Vincent/Jerome is due to blast off, a murder takes place in his office at Gattaca, Inc. (presumably named for the four amino acids that make up DNA: Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine and Thymine). Ethan Hawke's panic at his potential last-minute discovery is interesting to watch. Ethan played Todd of the starring roles in "Dead Poet Society", and I think this is the best film he has been in since then.

One problem with the film is that it tends to drag on a little too long at times: it would be easy to get bored if you did not find an interest in the characters. I also found myself wanting to see more of the space program in the time: we see several rocket launches over the film, but nothing of the destination. I think my imagination must be atrophying after seeing too many special-effects blockbusters like "Independence Day" or "Men in Black".

Vincents character is much enhanced as he begins to see what he has to lose, as well as what he has to gain by escaping Earth. His desire to leave is clearly founded in the prejudices that this society has against the "Godchildren" (those born naturally), versus those born through genetic enhancement. But as he develops a relationship with Irene (Uma Thurman), and considers the friendship that has grown up with his double, the real Jerome (crippled out of the country in an automobile accident; as the movie says "there is no gene for luck"), he realizes towards the end that he has a lot to lose as well.

More slow-going and thoughtful than most SF films, not everyone will enjoy this film: but I did.

Further Info (IMD)

© 1995-2002 William Geoffrey Shotts. Last update: Tuesday, March 09, 2004