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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Gattaca (1997)



Reviews and Comments

The taglines for this futuristic science fiction film say, "There is no gene for the human spirit." That is indeed what this film is all about. It glories in that encouraging fact, and the result is uplifting, if tinged with bittersweet overtones.

The future Gattaca portrays is frightening, made all the more so by the likelihood that much of it may indeed come to pass in some form. The world is one of genetic engineering, where most babies are made-to-order, and the others, born the natural way without a geneticist's intervention, are discriminated against and relegated to mindless and thankless careers. Ethan Hawke is one such individual, one with an impossible dream -- he wants to take a trip in space, but because of his genetic makeup, he'd never be permitted. So he takes another's identity, via a series of complex and innovative tricks to fool the society's strong security measures (for instance, each worker checks in in the morning by giving a fingertip blood sample for genetic analysis), which are among the film's most intriguing elements.

But a murder occurs, and detectives get a lead on Hawke's ploy. From that early moment, the suspense never relents -- and the refreshing part about it all is there's very little action. This is a character-driven suspense movie, a rarity in its own right, and it's a character-driven science fiction movie, which is rarer still. Hawke and the the rest of the cast (co-star Uma Thurman and supporting players which include Alan Arkin and Ernest Borgnine) are all strong. But it's the smart, profoundly insightful script that's Gattaca's star attraction. It falters only once, underestimating Thurman's character's intelligence midway through the film. In a veritable desert of slipshod blockbusters, what a drink of water this is!