on June 24, 2004
Gattaca paints a future where the haves are genetically designed and the have-nots are genetically inferior with no hope of advancement. But one young man has a dream. He wants to get into space. To do this he works out and studies as hard as he is able. But all of the hard work does no good. Then he finds a way.
Occasionally one of the haves has an accident. Then it is possible to assume that person's identity armed with genetic traces, blood and urine samples and some creative surgery. Thus armed he is able to enter Gattaca (the organization responsible for space flight) where he wins a position on the mission to Titan. But there is a hitch; a murder. During the investigative sweep one of his eyelashes is found and the search begins in earnest.
Most of the rest of the movie is involved with trying to maintain identity long enough to manage take off. Complicating matters are a Columbo-style detective (Alan Arkin), a love interest (Uma Thurman) and his brother from his old life. In the end it comes down to a simple idea. Many of the haves know a have-not (be it a child, sibling or whatever) who they have had to abandon and our hero represents the one ray of hope that these people can have. So just as he is discovered, the discoverers each have a reason to not turn him in and he begins the mission to Titan.
Gattaca, with its heavy detective cat-and-mouse, could be the successor to Alfred Bester's THE DEMOLISHED MAN. This was a very well made film with a good story, characters, acting and pacing. There were excellent performances from many of the cast including author Gore Vidal. If you like your films with a bit of thought then this is one you should look out for.
on July 1, 2004
1997's science-fiction drama GATTACA offers an intelligent look into the possible future of applied DNA science, a future where potential parents are given the ability to determine the genetic characteristics and thereby create a society of near-perfect super-humans. As one might deduce, this means that individuals born the "natural way"--such folk are referred to as "In-Valids"--are deemed inferior and prejudicially relegated to the lower rungs of the social ladder. In other words, In-Valids are considered mere mortals in this high-tech, genetically engineered world, and as such, education and opportunity are socially beyond their reach.
The film's plot revolves around Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), an In-Valid who works as a janitor at an aerospace firm named Gattaca Corporation. But in spite of society's view of him, Vincent has dreams of someday going into space himself, and his intelligence and all-consuming drive to find a way to transcend societally imposed barriers leads him into an alliance with a black-marketeer (Tony Shalhoub) and a genetically "superior" young man (Jude Law) who wants to sell his own identity. Soon Vincent is engaged in a scheme to secure employment as an engineer at Gattaca and thereby realize his goals and dreams. But once he's finally on the other side of the fence, how long can he sustain such subterfuge in a society where an individual's genetic identity is constantly monitored and even a lost eyelash can provide authorities with enough genetic material to expose a fraud?
GATTACA examines the nature of personal identity, personal destiny, and the idea that an individual can become more than the sum of his parts. Aldous Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD already thoroughly covers these same themes, but GATTACA approaches them in a more earnest and less satirical manner than does Huxley's magnum opus. GATTACA is therefore a very literate piece of speculative SF that should appeal to those who desire more than the standard STAR WARS (1977) or bug-eyed alien fare. Unfortunately, the film is a bit too cerebral for the average filmgoer, and probably explains why GATTACA was a bit of a bomb at the box office.
The film is excellently scripted and directed by Andrew Niccol, who later penned the script for the acclaimed THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998). The all-star cast does a fantastic job of acting, too, even those in minor roles (watch for Ernest Borgnine, Gore Vidal, Xander Berkeley, and others). Slawomir Idziak's cinematography is gorgeous but never overwhelms the story, and the special FX, though minimal, are subtle and quite effective. GATTACA is a great example of what thoughtful, intelligent SF cinema should be.
The standard DVD version of GATTACA from Columbia/Tristar offers a very good digital transfer of the film (there are a few filmic artifacts) in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. It also has bonus material that includes a short featurette, trailers, and some deleted scenes. The SuperBit DVD version--also in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen--offers a crisper, less grainy digital transfer, but it was apparently made from the same source and therefore contains the same filmic artifacts. (Audiophiles note: the SuperBit does have superior sound.) Keep in mind that, as with other SuperBit offerings from Columbia/Tristar, the increased bit rate comes at the cost of bonus material--you get the film only. And the higher cost of the SuperBit is justifiable only if you have a high-definition TV and can therefore appreciate the extra visual info. Regardless of which DVD version is purchased, however, a GATTACA DVD is a must-own for any true fan of intelligent speculative science fiction.
Imagine a world where your future is determined by your genes. Your schools, your job, your social status are all determined by what genetic flaws you have.
Such is the world that we see in "Gattaca," a scarily plausible sci-fi story that examines the implications of eugenics and genetic enhancement. Director Andrew Niccol thankfully never gets too preachy or "uplifting" -- instead he crafts a cleanly elegant story with a murder mystery as the catalyst, and the strong trinity Jude Law, Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke.
Vincent Freeman (Hawke) is an "invalid," conceived without eugenic technology. On the day he was born, it was predicted that he would be myopic, might be bipolar, and would probably die at thirty from a heart defect. Throughout his life, Vincent dreams of becoming an astronaut, but his genetic status dooms him to menial labor.
The solution: Vincent "buys" the identity and genetic profile of Jerome Eugene Morrow (Law), an Olympic swimmer who broke his back in a car crash. Vincent will pay Jerome, and Jerome will provide him with blood, urine, skin and hair samples.
With Jerome's help, Vincent is accepted into Gattaca Aerospace Corporation, and is chosen for a manned flight to Titan. But when one of the administrators is found murdered, the police find one of Vincent's eyelashes nearby. If they discover who Vincent truly is, he won't just lose his dream -- he'll be convicted of murder.
"Gattaca" is a movie that addresses one of life's great questions -- does destiny determine how we live our lives, or do we decide our own fate? There are no easy answers, but it's always best to err on the side of "we can make our own destiny" -- and this movie is basically all about one man's quest to determine his own fate, DNA be damned.
None of the movies Andrew Niccol has made since "Gattaca" have even come close to this level of skill -- the movie is a slow, elegant winding of murder mystery and philosophical sci-fi. The plot quietly grows in tension as Vincent's life becomes more tangled up in lies and suspicion, with quietly powerful dialogue laced with dry humor ("I guess we can rule out suicide," comments a cop as they bag a bloodied keyboard).
And it's beautifully filmed. Everything is full of clean lines and cold light, with the occasional moment of symbolism -- note that the apartment that Eugene and Vincent share is centered around a giant DNA-style spiral staircase.
And the final puzzle pieces are the actors, who are all really good. Ethan Hawke gives a quietly powerful performance as a man who goes to desperate lengths to fulfill his dreams, and Uma Thurman has the right mix of icy reserve and sweetness as a "valid" woman who falls in love with the man rather than his DNA.
But the best performance is Jude Law. Jerome a truly tragic character, whose genetic perfection wasn't enough to keep disaster away -- he's proof that DNA can't make your life good or rewarding. Law plays him with a mixture of bitter wit and compassion, with perpetually shadowed eyes and a drink always in his hand. You may cheer for Vincent, but your heart will bleed for Jerome.
"Gattaca" is a masterpiece of science fiction -- a richly nuanced, beautifully understated work that reminds you that, no matter where we come from, we can all reach for the stars.
on October 2, 2008
To understand Gattaca, it helps to know a little history.
About a century ago, progressives took up what the New York Times in 1912 called the "wonderful new science" of eugenics. Because of improvements in medicine and public health, eugenists said, the "unfit" were having more children than the "fit." Their solution included both positive eugenics--encouraging the "fit" to have more children, and negative eugenics--preventing the "unfit" from having children.
Forced sterilization laws in some 37 states were their greatest achievement, with California being the most zealous in applying its law. But legislation in more conservative states, particularly in the South, was blocked by claims that forced sterilization was unconstitutional. That barrier was shoved aside in a 1927 Supreme Court decision, Buck v. Bell, which regarded forced sterilization laws as no different from laws requiring vaccination. Regard some children as a blight on society, and sterilization serves the same disease-eliminating function as vaccination.
The feminists of that day had no problem with negative eugenics. They believed that the birthrate of the "unfit" should be lowered by any means possible. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a prominent feminist sociologist, made eugenics a key feature in her 1915 feminist utopia, Herland. What they objected to was "forced motherhood," meaning social pressures on women like themselves to abandon professional careers for children.
Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger took up their cause. She was vehemently opposed to positive eugenics, but zealously championed negative eugenics. Most of those regarded as "unfit" were recent immigrants from Southern Europe (Catholic) and Eastern Europe (Jewish). Because sterilization laws were only effective against people in state institutions, they could do little to lower immigrant birthrates. Her answer was to build birth control clinics in immigrant neighborhoods, starting with the Brownsville neighborhood in NYC. Poverty would be used as a lever to force down immigrant birthrates. You can read her arguments in her still-in-print 1922 bestseller, The Pivot of Civilization. To understand what is going on today, simply substitute blacks and Hispanics for those earlier Catholic and Jewish immigrants. And of course abortion has replaced birth control as the tool of choice.
Gattaca envisions a future world run by people much like those early twentieth century eugenists and birth controllers. If your parents allowed geneticists to manufacture you to the proper specifications, then life will be good, with all the best career paths open. But if, like the Vincent in this movie, your parents conceived you the old fashioned way, then you're consigned to menial jobs. In Vincent's case that meant cleaning the headquarters of Gattaca, an organization tasked with exploring the solar system.
Since he was a child, Vincent has wanted to explore space. Not being a member of the genetically programmed elite, that path seemed forever closed to him. This movie describes how he worked to beat the system. I won't give away details and spoil your fun, but I do suggest you pay attention to the clash between Vincent and his genetically programmed brother in their `who will turn back first' swimming challenge. This film reminds us there are aspects to our personalities, particularly courage, that can't be programmed in. They're the result of the choices we make. Vincent wins because he risks everything for his dream, saving nothing for the swim back.
This an excellent film. You won't regret watching it.
--Michael W. Perry, editor of: The Pivot of Civilization in Historical Perspective: The Birth Control Classic and Eugenics and Other Evils : An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State
Well told story with suspense pathos ignorant cops, unaware parents, bottles of pee, and a house with an appetite. Neighbors form bonds as they try to fathom the secrets of what motivates a house to consume kites and cars.
Then there is the great dialog "That must be its uvula." "Oh it is a girl house."
The film is animated which allows for many scenarios that are not physiologically possible. This actually adds to the spookiness. There is a socially relevant story with a positive ending.
However the there is nothing unique about the story or the characters. This makes it attractive for people that like formula films.
Well after ten years they have gone and done it. We now know how the genetic make-up of human beings. We also have electric cars and wrist radios. This is no longer sci-fi; it is speculative fiction. Or at least it is speculative. Anyway I have a friend that had a back problem in his youth. They left some dye in him and it was spotted during a job interview physical for a desk job; you guessed it.
Anyway this is a spectacular film. The sound track helped support the movie. They did a good job of picking the actors. The characters were believable. Uma did not even have to show her Thurman's. Ethan did a convincing transformation and Jude was good enough that you almost thought the film was about him. The scenes were breath taking. I was most impressed with the sunrise on the solar panels and the swim competition.
Two points to look for on your second viewing are:
1. Several times the brothers compete physically and logically. Even with his handicapped origin Ethan Hawke" Vincent Freeman" surpasses his brother Loren Dean "Anton."
2. Jude Law "Jerome Eugene Morrow" Was not without ambition. He was disappointed that his advantage was not advantageous enough for the gold and receives his gold thought the actions of Vincent.
Vincent who was conceived in the Rivera, as child of God (taking their chances) must compete in a world where all the negative genetic dispositions are usually removed as was his brother's case. Vincent is tagged for failure at birth. To overcome this social barrier and obtain his goal of going into space, he borrows the genes of an athlete gone astray. The director where he is working (GATTACA) is killed as the last obstacle to the mission. Will Vincent be found out? Irene (Uma Thurman) suspects the number one candidate for the space trip Jerome of the murder. She never suspects that he is really Vincent.
Bottom line is if you aren't genetically correct the movie may scare you.
Just a note to those that are DVD illiterate. Some select DVD's lend themselves very well to Superbit. This is one of those films.
When films were first transferred to DVD's they did not need that good of picture quality or sound for the average TV; so they had plenty of room left on the DVD capacity. This was a perfect platform for DVD Extras and fun fillers (and also coming attractions.) all at the expense of the more sophisticated or discerning viewer.
Today people want more from the film and have equipment with better capabilities. Thus the use of Superbit. The DVD is packed solid with more picture definition and better Sound options. Thus know room for those Extra fillers.
Also do not over look Widescreen with DTS as an option.
It is even available in Blu-ray
on June 4, 2004
It wasn't exactly surprising that this masterful film escaped most radars. Without bombastic effects and without any mass promotion and media brouhaha it was released almost silently and has gained the reputation of a true classic ever since.
Twenty minutes into this film and all the tell-tale signs of a great and capturing story are already well in place and it almost never lets down after that.
With all the dystopia banners obvious to anyone who's lost his optimism, Gattaca is about the story of a future society where ID has become one's gene-pool. Those with an "acceptable" gene combination are given access to the better jobs and prospects, and most importantly a chance to leave this planet for outer space, where, by then, humans are exploring domains far beyond their own solar system. Those with an undesirable gene combination, that is, big probability for disease, or other health failures and low life expectancy, are deemed, and doomed, to become society's low-rank water-carriers. The first category is the "valids" and the second the "in-valids".
One such invalid driven by his passionate dream of outer-space travel, finds a way to beat the system, by using blood and hair samples of a former valid who's incapacitated by partial paralysis. He assumes his new ID with full co-operation by the former invalid, and both these peoples' lives become an excruciating every day routine of trying to keep beating the control-checks and achieving each their own goals. Things turn even edgier when a murder investigation inside the base for space-travel points worrying leads towards the (...) and the police are hot on his trail. From then on it becomes a race of time. If he makes it he's safe for good, safe in the confines of the surreal distance that will separate him and the earth as his destination is Titan, a planet several years of distance away.
Gattaca is without a doubt one of the most intelligent films in recent time. Packed with superb ideas about a dystopian future without resorting to pomposity is its utter brilliance, subtle and convincing performances cement the result and the directing is equally great, using color and unidentifiable space to set the atmosphere.
Ethan Hawke plays the system-beater according to the cue of the story, always below the surface, and always with a "looking-behind-the-shoulder" aura. But the show is actually stolen by Jude Law, his Identity Giver and an ex-wonder "gene holder", who has to daily swallow his bitterness while trying to make what he thinks as best out of the situation. Uma Thurman is rather confined to the backround in the story, making Gattaca primarily a two-actor film. But this never undermines the force of this movie, instead it helps emphasize the story even more.
Incredibly poetic, especially the ending, and melancholically romantic, Gattaca is a tremendous film the full impact of which catches up with you after it's finished. Great on all levels with the slight exception of the love affair between Hawke and Thurman which doesn't serve much really but that does little to undermine the overall picture.
Essential for the sci-fi oriented and fans of intelligent cinema alike.
on June 2, 2004
Andrew Niccol makes his film début with Gattaca (1997). Born in New Zealand he is also a screen writer and director. He directed TV commercials in London before moving to Los Angles, where he felt that he could do something with more substance than commercials. Niccol actually made our deepest fantasies come true with this sci-fi thriller film. One is reminded of Orwell's book 1984, which also delves into the mind of the devious, not to mention Lois Lowry's book, The Giver. Both authors, along with Niccol give us glimpses into a futurist world where society is stratified; life is pretty much predictable for the privileged, those not so well endowed have to scrounge for their very existence. The message here is that we need to face our deepest fears and conquer them. We have the means at our disposal to do anything that we want or put our minds to do.
Niccol's use of dark and light portrayed sinister happenings, which had to be hid from the authorities. The hiding in the shadows, added to the drama of the situation where Vincent (Ethan Hawke) was almost caught by his brother, in a nightclub, where by societal standards he was not allowed to be as an invalid. Vincent found that he was able to achieve his dream, though not without help along the way. Even though he lived in a closed society, he managed to escape from living the life of the marginalized.
One of the two major thoughts that came from this movie for me is how we as a society are not really that far from the practice of eugenetics. Eugenetics is the practice of genetically altering the gene pool, DNA of a species. While this film shows that practice in the form of shifting out unwanted traits; i.e. obesity, and other harmful physical conditions, one thing that could not be genetically altered was the spirit or soul of the individual. Each person is an individual which thinks differently and uniquely from any one else. The possibilities are endless, especially since this technology is already in use for cancer treatments. But reality also shows that not everything shows up in the genes of individuals.
The other thought brings into focus much of what has been happening in the development of identification technology. The use of lasers to identify individual through their eye imprints, is now available in certain secure government facilities. The future may be nearer than we think.
on April 5, 2004
Eugenics as a form of social control by governments over its subjects is a very real issue. The formation of a so-called 'perfect' human being by way of genetic manipulation is a current science that is developing at such a rate that the ethical issues the subject raises, and the productive dialogue required when artificially controlling life, is falling way behind. In Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World Revisited', he explores a society where genetics is used to create the perfect society, and the ethical and social implications of such a world. He does not paint a positive picture. As the main character, Vincent, in this film proclaims, "Discrimination has now become a science." One's social status in society is solely determined by the perfections or imperfections of their genetic make-up. What does society do with its genetic imperfections? In the film, the lower end of the gene pool is relegated to menial jobs and the streets. Those without imperfections, the biological determined 'elite', are placed in the prestigious and important jobs and enjoy all the benefits. More than anything else, I believe, this important film is about the strength of the human spirit over so-called biological determinism. As the main character, Vincent, shows us, the will of the spirit far outweighs one's genetic predisposition.
Writer/director Andrew Nicole (Simone, The Truman Show) has rendered a near perfect film depicting a not so future dystopian world where governments determine its citizen's place in society before they're even born. This is fascism in its purest form. Our protagonist, Vincent, had the misfortune of being born a 'love child' conceived in the back seat of his parent's car. He is a 'de(gene)rate' whose future has been already determined: a life of slovenly jobs, a marked citizen, known as an 'invalid'. One day he realises, after saving his near perfect, genetically engineered brother's life, that he has what it takes to join the ranks of society's elite, and sets a plan in motion to join the Gattaca company. The lengths this boy goes to in order to achieve his goal is nothing less than astounding.
Considering the current lock down of our rights in society, (fingerprinting and computerized mugshots at every border airport) and due process dwindling at an alarming rate; genetic science becoming society's sole judge and executioner in our courts of law; and genetic science itself moving ahead in leaps and bounds without true and productive debate about the ethical implications, the world of Gattaca is almost upon us. As the film states at the beginning, "In the not so distant future.", is a frightening reality we must consider. This is an important film that should not be ignored.
on April 2, 2004
Vincent is an "invalid", someone whom society deems not worth investing time, money and emotion in as he will die young. Through the power of technology, people have their blood drawn at birth and can be told what diseases they are likely to have and at what age they will die.
Vincent is also the brother of Anton, a "valid", whom their father obviously loves more. But Vincent knows he can achieve his dreams if only he has the chance to prove it, but no one will allow him to prove it, especially since he has to provide genetic proof of his identity via urine and blood samples. All seems hopeless until he makes an alliance with valid Jerome, who is ina wheelchair after an accident (I guess science can't predict everything after all.)
Things are going well until Vincent falls for Irene (Uma Thurman)and has no idea how she would feel about his real "invalid" self. Who he really is will always be there --- and that wouldn't be so bad except everyone uses it to discriminate against him.
Very very interesting story -- you can use it as a metaphor for racism in our current society.
on March 30, 2004
Gattaca is on the premise that, at birth, a blood sample can detect all of that infant's potential diseases, etc and even the age of death. With this information, society deems in whom it is worht investing time and money to be a major contributor i.e. a "valid" and who is not an "invalid".
Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is born an invalid but wants to be an astronaut, a job given only to valids --- which is younger brother Anton is. For this reason, the adult Vincent meets a valid Jerome (Jude Law) who has been crippled in an accident ([hmmm]... the blood sample never saw that coming!) Jerome provides Vincent with blood and [other] samples, etc so that Vincent can realize the potential that he knows he has, even if the world tells him he doesn't. During this time he falls in love with the beautiful valid Irene (Uma Thurman, in a parallel to what happened with she and Ethan Hawke in real life.)
This is an interesting testament that nothing can nor should limit a human's potential, no matter how much other humans claim.