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1997 - PG-13 - Mins.
Director: Andrew Niccol
Producer: Danny DeVito
Written By: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin, Jude Law, Ernest Borgnine
Review by: John Ulmer
I like movies that take place in the not-too-distant future. It allows for repetitive viewings for years to come, primarily because audiences will always be able to believe that the future they are witnessing may be right around the bend. As great a film as it is, "2001: A Space Odyssey" predicted advancements that never came - which, in retrospect, all seem quite dated. It's still an undoubtedly great film, but the wonder of the technology has somewhat diminished - but when a film says it takes place in the not-too-distant can never say it predicted wrong.

Gattaca is a futuristic space station that employs perfect people to work on perfect missions to space. Vincent (Ethan Hawke) was a rare child, an embryo not edited in any way, shape or form to improve characteristic traits. As soon as the child is born, blood is taken and analyzed. It is predicted that young Vincent will be overweight, suffer from heart problems and die by the age of 30.

It never happens. Vincent, as a young man, is healthy - physically and emotionally. He doesn't suffer any breakdowns, his heart never fails, and he is simply a normal human being. He wears glasses on his weak eyes, and that is the only indication that he is somewhat human after all.

Other children, including his brother, are taken after conception and placed under the care of scientists who can alter genes and take out such unwanted traits as obesity, harmful physical conditions, and damaging addictions that could cause the soon-to-be-born individual's future self.

Vincent dreams of becoming a space explorer, of joining Gattaca and traveling to distant planets. His dreams are all ruined, though, because he is not perfect like everyone else. So what do you do if you can't fit in? Buy your way in.

Vincent pays a crook (Tony Shalhoub) to find an individual with good traits who would be interested in swapping identities. He does, and presents Jerome (Jude Law) to Vincent. Jerome used to be an Olympic Silver Medal swimmer until he became paralyzed from the waist down. His injury was not reported in the United States, but rather overseas, and so Vincent assumes Jerome's identity, copying his features and mannerisms and so on and so forth so that he can pass as Jerome and be accepted into Gattaca.

Tricky stuff is involved, such as occasional urine samples and daily blood checks (to see if the workers at Gattaca are "Valid" or "Invalid"). Jerome pees into bags and draws blood, and Vincent pays the rent in exchange for his favors. They both think they may have a chance at a future when Irene (Uma Thurman) starts to suspect something and begins a dangerous love affair with Vincent, that only ends in truth.

Andrew Niccol's flair for technological advancements of the future shines through in "Gattaca." He's the man responsible for the Jim Carrey vehicle "The Truman Show" and last year's funny black comedy "S1m0ne." This is his finest achievement, a story deeply rooted in both the present and the future. It bears a message that everyone should be given a shot, irregardless of physical conditions, and it also presents us with amazing futuristic contraptions and settings. It's a very good movie.

There's something I've noted about Andrew Niccol movies, however, that is harder to spot but nevertheless very present in "Gattaca." It's a superficial feeling. I sensed it in "The Truman Show," "S1m0ne," and again in "Gattaca." It hit me just now that it's the wide gaps in the man's screenplays -- in "The Truman Show," my enjoyment in the film was hindered by its almost ludicrous example of how a television show based solely around one man might exist. (Truman would have to be pretty naive not to notice certain things when he was younger, and not only that, but the entire idea has many plot holes that I usually don't care about but couldn't shrug off.) "S1m0ne" had the same sort of moments where you had to stop a minute and say, "Wait, hold on...what? Come on!"

But "Gattaca" moves so fast and with such self-assurance that you never have the time to stop and wonder about the numerous plot holes in the plot. I liked "Gattaca," despite its minor flaws, and it's the rare type of film that actually means a lot of things on a lot of different levels.
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

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