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Gattaca (1997)
Rated R

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Gore Vidal

Rating:
****
out of
*****

In the not-too-distant future, genetics will play a tremendous role in the lives of the Earth's population. Parents will be able to choose virtually every aspect of their child's genetic makeup from the best possible samples of their own DNA. Any imperfection, such as bad eyesight, heart disease or even premature balding, is viewed with distain. Because technology has made these things obsolete, they are the marks of a "de-GENE-erate."

Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is the child of parents who made a choice to not select the best of each possible trait. They left some of his genetic makeup to chance, like in the old days. As a result, he has a life expectancy of 30 years due to a weak heart. His younger brother, who is given the selective genetic advantage, is guaranteed by DNA alone to have a more successful life. Vincent can acheive no better than a job as a janitor at a training ground for potential astronauts and space explorers known as Gattaca.

Vincent, however, isn't about to let the fact that he's not gifted with the right genetic makeup interfere with his desire to be a space explorer. By working out and studying relentlessly, the time comes for him to infiltrate Gattaca as one of the privilged rather than as a janitor. By using an underground operative who can supply the needed DNA, skin, urine and hair samples to allow him to access the inner workings of Gattaca, Vincent begins a working relationship with Jerome (Jude Law), a former swimmer who's been injured in an accident and now deemed inferior. By supplying Vincent with the needed DNA information, Jerome can win a victory against the society who feels his injury is reason enough to shun him. Vincent, in essence, becomes Jerome and begins his quest to fool Gattaca long enough to reach his goal of space travel.

Gattaca was written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who is reponsible for the script for this past summer's The Truman Show. Niccol creates a slightly unbelievable, but still engaging, world of paranoia, suspicion and retro-looking technology. The look of the film is striking, without ever looking like your standard "sci-fi future world."

The film's performances are worth mentioning as the bulk of the film is made up of character interaction. Jude Law's turn as Jerome is particularly good. He made for a stronger visual presence than did Ethan Hawke, but Hawke was not a slouch in his role either. Uma Thurman, as another potential candidate for the space launch, is effective in her role. She provides the only real female role in the film.

Also worth mentioning is the film's soundtrack, which I found particularly haunting. I don't find myself bitten by the urge to hunt down the soundtrack CD for movies all that often, but I was making a mental note to do so while watching this film.

One thing I found refreshing about Gattaca is that, while predominantly a science fiction film, it was not overloaded with special effects or glitzy action scenes. It is more concerned with making believable characters live and breath in a less-than-believable world. For that, Gattaca is worth high praise.

Trivia: The name "Gattaca" can be composed entirely of the letters used to label the four components of DNA. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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