GATTACA (1997) 

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Ethan Hawke
Uma Thurman
Jude Law
Alan Arkin
Gore Vidal
Loren Dean
Blair Underwood
Ernest Borgnine

Andrew Niccol



Original Score

Time: 112 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Science Fiction/Romance/Drama

Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction.

GATTACA is probably more well-known as the film that sparked Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke's real life love affair, than the stunning sci-fi thriller it is. Uninspired marketing guaranteed this film a poor reception in theaters, which came and went without much fanfare. A real shame for sci-fi lovers who missed something truly special. Despite it's lackluster boxoffice receipts, GATTACA has become a sort of underground cult classic. With a powerful, intelligent story and inspired art direction, it's not hard to see why. This is a well-written, acted and directed film about a future we are on course to actually achieving. It's message a frightening peek at humanity's desire for perfection no matter what the cost.

This is the story of Vincent (Hawke), an "in-valid." Conceived through the grace of God and without the help of geneticists, he is considered undesirable and weak from the moment of his birth. Science has progressed so far as to be able to tell from a strand of hair, an eyelash, urine or blood, everything about a person from their physical and mental strengths and weaknesses to how and when they're going to die. Vincent has a heart condition that renders him useless to society, since he's only expected to live for 30 years. For their second child, his parents go the "proper" route, choosing not only the sex and physical characteristics of Vincent's new sibling, but ruling out as many genetic anomalies as possible. His new baby brother is perfect and will be given all the chances society has to offer. Vincent is told that he can, and should expect to be, nothing more than a janitor. However, that's not the life he envisions for himself. He is determined to be an astronaut and will stop at nothing to succeed – even if it means becoming someone else. With a little help, Vincent becomes Jerome Morrow, a Valid with a spectacular future ahead of him. Of course, what Jerome's blood doesn't tell the machines is that he'd hate his life so much he'd try to commit suicide.

"I got the better end of the deal. I only lent you my body – you lent me your dream."

It's the one thing he doesn't succeed at. Jerome (Law) is now wheelchair bound and is selling his identity for profit. For Vincent to become Jerome, he must alter his physical appearance (hair dye, contact lenses and they make him taller in a way you don't want to know about) and learn by heart Jerome's entire life history. Because even a hair can betray him, Vincent scrubs himself clean each day removing as much physical evidence of his existence as possible. Then with Jerome's blood and urine attached to his body (Jerome keeps him constantly supplied), Vincent enters the work force at Gattaca, the premiere astronaut training center. He quickly rises to the top – no one expects anything different – and is about to be sent on his dream mission when Gattaca's mission director is brutally killed on the premises. While checking out the murder scene, Vincent carelessly loses an eyelash, which causes the investigation to focus finding this invalid intruder. He is able to keep the ruse going, but there are several extremely close calls. Tense and unsure, he almost gives up his dream, but Jerome refuses to let him. He's sacrificed too much for Vincent to give up now. With the help of Irene (Thurman), he escapes detection from everyone but the chief investigator, who just happens to be his brother.

Surprised to find him still alive, Anton (Dean) refuses to let Vincent continue the ruse. Doesn't Vincent know he's not worthy? A final duel between the brothers settles the question for good and Vincent gets what he's always wanted – proof that he's better than his genes. Hawke is the perfect loser with the will to win. Dean, who has great potential, actually gets a role worth his rising talent. He is so loathsome here, you just want to slap he's condescending face. Law begins to show just how good an actor he's since become. He and Hawke are two sides of the same coin, each wanting out of his chosen destiny and willing do anything to make their dream come true. Thurman's talent is wasted in the girlfriend role, but she manages to make the character more interesting than it really is. Though the story is unique and intriguing, what pushes it into truly memorable is the art direction. A breathtaking, if somewhat cold and sterile, look into the future. It's what brings the take to life. GATTACA is a thoughtful film about society's prejudices and the potential dark side of messing with mother nature. With a wonderful look, above par acting and a plot filled with deliciously tense moments, this a great rental for a moody evening.

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