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Gattaca (1997)

Science Fiction & Fantasy movie directed by Andrew Niccol

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Jack of all trades, master of none

  • Dec 19, 2002
Granted, Gattaca certainly tries to be all things to all people - it sells itself variously as a Philip K. Dick-esque sci-fi, as a Tense Political Thriller, an Edgy Romance, even as a Rumination on Filial Love and Obligation - but in my book it fails badly on every count. I am clearly in the minority on this, so I had better explain.

From the opening sequence, something is clearly amiss: I mean, extreme close-ups of exfoliated skin and toenail clippings, anyone?

Thereafter, things do not improve.

First off, the sci-fi premise is flimsy (it's a rap on the genetically programmed to be perfect humans vs. "human" humans debate: where "human" humans have become "invalid" citizens, electronically tagged and shut out mainstream society of perfectly engineered "valid" humans. But, you would think, if there is sufficient technology to eradicate human flaws at conception, then surely someone must clever enough to fix them later in life too, no?).

The special effects team (who, in fairness, didn't have much to do other than the aforementioned toenail clipping close-ups and the odd distant rocket launch) seem to have missed the last 35 years in development of special effects.

The brother vs. brother thread is schmaltz (the whole relationship can be summed up, apparently, by who was the better swimmer when they were boys), ... Good grief.

What else... oh yes, the lack of chemistry between Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke beggars belief (Thurman looks continually as if the very sight of Hawke gives her the screaming heebie jeebies), and the thriller/whodunnit piece does not import a sense of drama into the proceedings. And boy does the film need it.

The only saving grace is Jude Law, who seems to make his living these days propping up dreadful films with solid performances (see A.I. and The Road To Perdition in this regard), and who at the critical moment in the film, performs a very deft ascent of a spiral staircase without using his legs.

That is to be commended, however bad the rest of the experience.

Olly Buxton

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review by . October 02, 2006
Many people spend their lives searching for their place in life, and many movies are made that deal with this theme; examples include "The Majestic", "As Good as it Gets", "Lost in Translation" and "X-Men". But what about the exact opposite, what about those who know for certain their place in life and are not happy with it? This is the central underlying theme in this movie. It is the future, and mankind has progressed to the point where genetic engineering of newborns is a common practice. Some …
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Olly Buxton ()
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Confidently conceived and brilliantly executed,Gattacahad a somewhat low profile release in 1997, but audiences and critics hailed the film's originality. It's since been recognized 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 vehicleThe 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,Gattacaestablishes 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,Gattacais both stylish and smart, while Jude Law's performance lends the film a note of tragic and heartfelt humanity.--Jeff Shannon
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Director: Andrew Niccol
Screen Writer: Andrew Niccol
DVD Release Date: July 1, 1998
Runtime: 106 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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