Just last night I watched the Scifi mystery/thriller Gattaca. I had wanted to see this when it came out, but never got the chance; thankfully, Freddie De Boer recommended it on his Twitter feed- so I checked it out on Netflix instant cast.
Gattaca combines all that is great in the Science Fiction genre- blending fantasy, with realistic fears,concerns, and hopes. It captures the imagination, while keeping a viewer conscious of the real world. The story takes place in the “Not too distant future” where humanity has created a complex caste system defined by an individuals genetics. Rather than producing humans the ole’ fashion way- most “civilized” people opt to genetically engineer their child to be the “best”. This relationship is played out between Vincent (Ethan Hawk) who was conceived the way you and I were; and his younger brother Anton, who engineered by their parents. In one simple exchange of dialogue, the doctor explains the world that does not seem too far away:
“Antonio: We were just wondering if, if it is good to just leave a few things to, to chance?
Geneticist: We want to give your child the best possible start. Believe me, we have enough imperfection built in already. Your child doesn’t need any more additional burdens. Keep in mind, this child is still you. Simply, the best, of you. You could conceive naturally a thousand times and never get such a result.”
On the surface, the two brothers are polar oppositions. Vincent is short, frail, has poor eye sight, and according to records taken at birth- has a weak heart and will most likely die as a result; In contrast, Anton is perfect in every way, and this smugness corrupts him from childhood. Because of Vincent’s heart condition, he is bared from any meaningful work (his dream is to work for Gattaca and be an astronaut). Instead, he must do manual labor jobs, with little chance of achieving anything.
But, Vincent has other plans. Through an elaborate plan that involves a down-on-his-luck genetically engineered man, Vincent is able to gain access into Gattaca, work among the elite, and hopefully get to travel in space.
The film works because Vincent is such a convincing character. There is no question throughout the story that Vincent is qualified to travel is in space. With this out of the way, the viewer is left to ponder the discrimination that he is exposed to, and the injustice of it. One of the film’s strongest qualities is never letting the audience loose sight of the possibilities of this future taking place, while avoiding being overly preachy. In the thirteen years since this film was made, the world of genetics has exploded, we are treated daily to new stories about science discovering a new way to manipulate cells.
Gattaca is also successful because it not only deals with high-minded philosophy, but it creates an web of suspense surrounding a murder and the investigation that might expose Vincent as a fraud. It also features the beautiful Uma Thurman who plays Hawke’s love interest and coworker.
I could not highly more recommend Gattaca, It’s one of the better modern Science Fiction films I’ve seen in awhile.