Confidently conceived and brilliantly executed, Gattaca had a somewhat low profile release in 1997, but audiences and critics hailed the film's originality. It's since been recognised as one of the most intelligent science fiction films of the 1990s. Writer-director Andrew Niccol, the talented New Zealander who also wrote the acclaimed Jim Carrey vehicle The Truman Show, 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. Part thriller, part futuristic drama and cautionary tale, Gattaca establishes its social structure so convincingly that the entire scenario is chillingly believable. With Uma Thurman as the woman who loves Vincent and identifies with his struggle, Gattaca is both stylish and smart, while Jude Law's performance lends the film a note of tragic and heartfelt humanity.--Jeff Shannon [show more]
Perhaps the best plaudit for this film is meritorious, as this is ultimately a film about struggling to prove individual worth in the face of adversity and repression. There is nothing novel in that theme, but stylish execution makes it particularly resonant. The film interrogates the concept of arbitrary social divisions with poise and exemplary candour. The simple premise is that a member of a social class excluded from a career as an astronaut sets about showing how disability can be overcome. He must do this against extraordinary opposition, so his own identified flaws do not threaten to be the critical problem. This is about having the opportunity to try to succeed, and so is a patent critique of all attempts at engineered outcomes based on ascription. The characterisation is engaging and strong performances give the film depth. Thurman is enigmatic and a study in self-control. Law makes his character's bitterness tangible. Alan Arkin deploys his gift to shine in the part of the ordinary man. Each main character has his or her own value, and chance to demonstrate a sense of idealism. It is Xander Berkeley in a minor role who steals the film in that respect, casually revealing tacit complicity in the protagonist's infiltration at a critical juncture. The film has a heavy atmosphere of brushed aluminium. In terms of its futuristic pretensions it must be for modern audiences the equivalent of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. It is almost equally monochromatic but punctuated with colour for apposite visual effect. So why only three out of four? To create an example of how redundant it is not to award what is duly deserved on the basis of talent and ability.
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