Friday, March 15, 2013

Gattaca

All Vincent Freeman ever wanted to do was travel in space - to leave the earth in a rocket, and catch a little closer glimpse of the stars. Unfortunately, he's had something of a handicap ever since birth - ever since conception - he is not genetically enhanced. Oh, his parents meant well when they opted to not "give him his best chance" by insuring his genes made him strong and healthy and handsome, but in a society full of genetically enhanced, "valid" humans, exceptional is the new normal. And exceptional people are not just born. Vincent's parents realize this, when seconds after he is born, a DNA test results in a long list of defects he has, or will very likely have, including heart failure, and a mere thirty-year life expectancy. Their next child is enhanced; "valid," and as they grow up, Anton quickly surpasses Vincent in everything. The only job the genetic-discriminating world will give Vincent is that of a janitor, but he refuses to accept his fate. He buys and assumes the identity of a swimming star, Jerome Morrow, who has practically perfect genetics, but was paralyzed in an accident. Armed with this identity, all it takes is a DNA test for "Jerome" to be accepted into Gattaca, and start training for a mission into space. And as if living the life of a different person isn't hard enough, just a week before Jerome is scheduled to finally leave the earth, successful, his mission director is found murdered, and the main suspect is a "in-valid" named... Vincent Freeman.

And all that is just the set-up.


This 1997 understated, suspenseful, mystery/sci-fi/drama was the first film for Kiwi writer/director Andrew Niccol, who also penned the brilliant The Truman Show, one of my ultimate favorite films. Gattaca isn't very similar to The Truman Show though; it's more Minority Report. There is at least one similarity I did notice though - both movies hold your attention with ease, without the use of action sequences - explosive, stylized, violent, epic or otherwise. There is action, but not the effect filled, drawn out kind you see in big blockbusters, or expect to see in science fiction flicks. Now, don't get me wrong; I love me some action sequences (The Avengers is one of my favorite movies too) and Niccol probably could've gotten away with putting some in Gattaca, but I really respect that he didn't, because he really didn't need to.

Suspense is the order of the day here, and I could tell it was well-done, and subtle suspense too, because I regularly discovered myself unknowingly at the edge of my seat. The drama of Jerome trying to keep his true identity a secret, and the murder mystery element is plenty to hold interest with a firm, very neo-noir hand.


Oh yeah, and there's a little romance too; nothing very special, but I usually don't like Uma Thurman at all, and her more mellow performance here was plenty good. She plays Irene, a valid, who has potential heart problems in spite of being enhanced, and catches Jerome's interest. Vincent/Jerome, that is - Ethan Hawke - and I'm thinking is the first film I've ever seen him in. He plays the determined, controlled, reaching-for-the-stars hero of the future very pleasingly... and looks impressivly like Jude Law.

Law is the real Jerome of course, who goes by Eugene after selling his identity. Wheelchair-bound, Eugene wheels around the basement of the apartment he shares with Jerome, collecting his own DNA for Jerome's use, and making sarcastic remarks, and, occasionally, saving the day. His supporting role was actually the meatiest role of the film, plus the source of comic relief, and of course, Law did a great job with it all. Every time I find one of my eyelashes now, I can hear him saying, "Keep your lashes on your lids where they belong!" It's... actually not a bad thing at all.


There were a few things that didn't sit quite right with me - spoilers though, so I won't go into detail - but nothing that ruined the overall movie experience. I did skip through one short scene though, that justified one third of the movie's PG-13 rating for "brief violent images, language, and some sexuality," (as per usual) and dealt with the other two-thirds, but it was all relatively mild.

I really like these kinds of movies. Different - Niccol tells a subtle, but unique story, and never adheres to genre stereotypes (like sci-fi requiring a side of action/adventure) just because that what you're "supposed" to do. And thought-provoking - Gattaca cleverly poses - plants - questions inside the plot, and then leaves you to your own devices to answer them to your satisfaction. Beautiful, but not overpowering or stylized, and never trying to force anything from us we don't want to give - Gattaca is an unimposing, cleverly acted, eye-pleasing science-fiction film. If you were me, you would be intrigued.

-- 4/5 stars.

4 comments:

  1. I remember when this came out, and I had no idea Jude Law is in it! You make it sound very intriguing, and if it ever crosses my path, I'll give it a go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, and I was surprised at how much he was in it too. I was expecting him to disappear after the first twenty minutes or so. Oh, good! That's exactly what I was trying to do! :D

      Delete
  2. I too found Gattaca intriguing. My favorite aspect was the unique sci-fi world and concepts. My only slight complaint is that it could have used suspense more effectively, other than that, it was an interesting movie, great review.

    -James

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it is extremely unique isn't it? I personally thought the suspense struck a perfect balance, but I'm glad it was only slightly off to you. Thank you!

      Delete