Gattaca (1997)

“Gattaca” is an extremely precise, meticulously-crafted science-fiction film, in the vein of idea-focused science-fiction (“2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Contact”, the recent “Arrival”, and so on) rather than action-focused science-fiction (”The Matrix”, “Independence Day”, the modern “Star Trek” movies, etc.). It’s been hailed by NASA as “the most realistic movie of the future”. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s an exceptional, gorgeous, strong piece of science-fiction.

The premise behind the film, about a world where babies are genetically engineered to be as perfect as possible, is extremely compelling (and can be read as nightmarishly disturbing, a ponderous curiosity, even potentially a good thing – the film clearly identifies most with it’s protagonist’s views, but the issue is explored in enough depth to accommodate other ideas), though the script exploring it doesn’t always do so with finesse. There’s a fair bit of clunky dialogue, some character interactions are underdeveloped, and the voiceover segments are sometimes painfully on-the-nose and expositional.

But the story itself is wonderful, and most of the actors are well up to the task of delivering it (Uma Thurman, bizarrely, shows virtually no chemistry with Ethan Hawke on-screen). Loren Dean doesn’t sell some of the film’s bigger moments either, and Alan Arkin feels like he’s operating on an entirely different tonal level. Some of that comes down to the film occasionally slipping into a weird noir vibe that doesn’t really mesh with the more detached Kubrickian style it usually falls into.

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The visual aesthetic is really compelling, from the very strong and delineated colour scheme, to the modernist architecture, to the multiple time periods encapsulated in the biopunk technology stylings.

The story at the heart of the movie is timeless and eminently relatable. Struggling against the odds to a society whose structures push you down is a classic underdog framework, and the film imbues it with such earnestness, such earned humanity, that it works fantastically. There are a few missteps, but the aesthetics and general story work very, very well. I give it four fingerprints, and a vial of blood.

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