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on March 16, 2004
Gattaca (1997) is a beautiful movie that takes place in the not-so-distant future where genetic manipulation prior to birth brings out the best qualities of the parents while eliminating the worst, specifically, predispositions to diseases, additions, poor eyesight, etc. That is, if your parents choose to do so...
The film tells the a story about Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), a man born naturally, a 'God-child', one who didn't benefit from advanced technology during his development within the womb, and subsequently has various conditions many are familiar with like poor eyesight, heart problems, etc. Vincent has his sights set on the stars, wanting to travel to distant planets, visit far away places (I mean really far away) but due to advanced science, he has no chance as people can now determine the status of your health, your future health, by any number of ways, a strand of hair, a bit of spittle on a cup, a flake of skin, and while biases due to genetic profiling are illegal, the practice is common and widespread, resulting in Vincent relegated to working in less than desirable jobs like cleaning offices.
This practice of genetic stereotyping has lead to a new kind of crime, one where a person of impeccable genetic make-up but who has found themselves a victim of fate due to a permanent injury or such, can broker their identity to a natural born person, supplying that person with various blood and urine samples, strands of hair, flakes of skin, allowing that person to pose as a 'valid' individual, and garner a choice position in corporate society. Jude Law plays Jerome Eugene Morrow, a superior individual who suffered a crippling accident and has now agreed to sell his identity to Vincent Freeman, in exchange for Vincent supporting the lifestyle Jerome was accustom to prior the accident. This involves a very elaborate daily routine by Vincent, including a complete scrub down of his entire body to remove any 'loose' material that could possibly be found, analyzed, and give him away. In order for Vincent to pose as Jerome, he must carry on him samples of Jerome's blood, urine, and other identifiers at all times.
Vincent manages to pull off the sham, securing himself a position at Gattaca, a 'corporate' NASA, and is on the fast track to achieving his dream of space travel...but for one problem. A high-ranking official in Gattaca was recently murdered, and the police are thoroughly investigating all individuals. Will Vincent's shell of deception crack under close scrutiny of a murder investigation?
I really enjoyed this movie, watching for a second time last night. The picture has a very texturized feel, with the subdued lighting, immaculate sets and costumes giving the entire movie a very `noir' quality. The story was very well laid out, allowing for rich development of the main characters, creating a real interest and empathy for me for the proceedings on the screen. Ethan Hawke and Jude Law played their roles wonderfully, one as the struggling `inferior' with dreams that reach beyond his genetic make-up, and the other as the spoiled near-perfect specimen forced to deal with a physical infirmity due to fate, one that couldn't be corrected for with pre-natal DNA manipulation. Followed up with a strong supporting cast including Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin, and Elias Koteas, we are presented with a very plausible science fiction tale, one that may cause you to give some thought and provoke conversation on the concept of human messing around in Mother Nature's domain.
The picture here looks wonderful, and is available here in both full screen and wide screen anamorphic formats. Special features also include a trailer for the film, a featurette, deleted scenes, and production notes.
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on May 29, 2002
"Gattaca" is an incredible example of a science-fiction movie entirely based on plot, low-key twists and development, and not on special effects. Married couple Hawke and Thurman, along with Jude Law, and the direction of Andrew Nicol prove that there is no gene for the human spirit.
Vincent (Hawke) is an invalid, a "degenerate" born of natural conception without any advanced genetic engineering. Several seconds after he is born, his parents know how Vincent will die, and his life expectancy. As he grows, his heart dysfunction limits his career choices. As a result, his parents have another child, this time genetically engineered to be totally superior. The feuding siblings prove themselves over a game of swimming chicken, but it is inevitable as Anton grows more faster than Vincent that the younger child will be the favored. As a result, Vincent leaves the home and begins a job as a janitor at the Gattaca Aerospace Center, the closest he can be to his dream: the stars. But he finds that a janitor is the farthest away. Vincent trains his body and mind, but still cannot get past the cleaning job. Then, he makes a call.
He wants to be a defective ladder, or, a stand-in for a enhanced person. Vincent stands in for one of the most prized people, Jerome Morrow (Law). His disguises are perfect. Jerome supplies the blood, urine, and hair to Vincent. Then, just as Vincent is getting along at Gattaca, there is a murder of the exact mission director that was in charge of the flight to Titan that included Vincent. Enter enhance Irene (Thurman) and investigators Hugo and Josef. Vincent adequately, with the help of Jerome, sneaks past the investigators at every turn while a relationship develops between himself and Irene. Drama, suspense, incredible acting follow.
Hawke, in one of his first dramatic leads, shines as he plays an ordinary man who is extrodinary in using everyday techniques. He is the most human character in the entire movie, but holds the weight for all the the genetically enhanced. Uma Thurman, who's not given such a role as Hawke, does well with what she have. Director Niccol really accentuates on her beauty and innocence as he plays Irene, and enhance that really has no idea of the real life that Vincent is so accustomed to. There is excellent chemistry between the two. The two dated after the movie was over, and eventually were wed. There is a great supporting cast, including Alan Aarkin, Jude Law, and Ernest Borgnine.
"Gattaca" is an under-rated movie that suprises all, and wonders how much spirit we can all have.
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on March 13, 2008
I have two topics to mention: The "special features" and the "image quality".

It is worth noting that I own the both the original Gattaca DVD and Super-Bit version for comparison.

1) Special Features:
While maintaining the original DVD's ugly menu system, this edition contains a 22 featurette on the making of Gattaca with interviews of Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and a number of the production crew. I enjoyed this addition. There is also a new clip on gene manipulation (history, current, and future) which was somewhat interesting.

2) Image Quality:
The original DVD was only a single layer 4.5gb disk, which resulted in a grainy image with a slightly blue tint. The Super-Bit disk was disappointingly mastered, with visible dust and hair in the copy. The Super-Bit version took on a more natural tone but suffered from over-saturated browns and greens.

Finally, this reproduction seems to have a good balance between color and image quality, although some scenes are a little grainy and the movie overall seems darker.

Is it worth buying this edition if you have one of the others? Probably not, but with the HD format wars over, I might be inclined to splurge on a Blu-Ray player to give the new Blu-Ray Gattaca disk a spin.
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VINE VOICEon April 12, 2008
I must admit that this movie did not appeal to me when it was first released in theaters. However, many years ago, I rented it and was captivated by the story. Since then I've had to make do with the underwhelming DVD edition. If you are looking for a lot of action, then this movie is probably not for you. What it does offer is a fantastic story with a cast that gives top notch performances. If you already own the DVD, and are not sure if this one is worth the upgrade, believe me the Blu-ray edition blows the old DVD out of the water. The sound and picture are near perfection. The colors on the DVD version appear washed out compared to the high def color palette. While this movie won't give your surround system a major workout, it does provide very clear ambient surround effects. The special features include two new short documentaries on the making of the film. While these don't compare to some of the extras offered on other titles, they are very informative and a welcome addition to the previous version. My one fault would be that it would have been great to have at least a good commentary track, or even a picture in picture feature. But, because I feared that this movie would never get the treatment it so rightly deserves, I would still highly suggest you add this title to your Blu-ray collection.
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on May 12, 2002
Gattaca totally bombed at the box office. The ... folks call it a "low-profile" release. Yeah, right. It grossed less than $10 million, despite a big budget and a big cast. But it was poorly marketed (check out the horrible trailer), and the public just didn't dig the dark subject matter without any of the usual high-tech accoutrements -- such as nifty explosions, CGI characters, the like.
I however loved the lack of special effects in this movie. This is science fiction in a pure sense -- not as popcorn movie, but as a thought-provoking look at what certain advances in science will bring about.
What if we could genetically engineer all human life? That question is taking on added urgency with each passing cloning revelation.
What if pollution got so bad that life expectancy rates were to drop sharply for all who did not have special genetic enhancements?
What if genetic fingerprinting technology got so good that you could not do ANYTHING without the government knowing about it, because their genetic sniffers could detect the DNA in the skin cells you shed every second?
This is not far-out sci-fi, this is plausible, near-future sci-fi.
It has excellent acting performances, including a wonderful Jude Law before he became really famous.
As added bonuses, you get a really taut thriller and a decent love story to boot.
But leave the popcorn in the cupboard: this is a pretty dark movie with a pretty bleak vision of the future. Twizzlers would be more appropriate.
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on December 19, 2001
Many science fiction films have a major flaw - their total lack of appeal to a broad range of people - yet 'Gattaca' succeeds on many levels. In we're introduced to Vincent (Ethan Hawke), a man of natural birth (or an 'in-valid') whose life expectancy is 30. Vincent longs for deep space travel but knows that he'll never amount to anything but a cleaner with his genes. So he grabs the opportunity to pass himself off as 'valid' Jerome (Jude Law) who has been crippled. However, things start to go wrong when a murder investigation and pretty co-worker Irene (Uma Thurman) get closer to figuring out the truth.
This is an immensely intriguing idea that is carried off well with both a realistic and disquieting view of the future. Never truly alone and programmed to be able to do only one specific thing means that dreams and aspirations are thrown out of the window. Among other things it also functions as an efficient thriller and love story. For these reasons it's unusual that this movie didn't do better at the box office.
As a romantic story it works a lot better than, say, 'Blade Runner' (Hawke and Thurman are married in real life) but the film is quite happy to cater to all tastes and it's difficult to pigeon-hole this as merely science-fiction. It has echoes of books such as 'Brave New World' and the incredibly realised future is at once elegant, absorbing and terrifying. Yet it never loses sight of the human spirit, with Jude Law's performance being especially mesmerising as the perfect person that has to live with his incapacity and watch a stranger live his life for him.
However, maybe the best praise for 'Gattaca' is that I loved it, and I'm not a science-fiction fan.
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on August 24, 1999
This is truly one of the most inspiring movies I've ever seen.
It's replete with symbolism: helix shaped stair cases, red and green lights indicating valid and invalid, the heart disease of Vincent (the natural born) as opposed to the lack of heart (spirit) of Jerome (the "superior", genetically engineered human), etc. The setting also makes use of connotations associated with the past. Slick hair styles, clothing, and sterile interior furnishings have an organized, repressed feeling evoking the controlled and prejudiced 1950's. This helps enhance the mood of lifeless surrender. Even the bald head of the geneticist at the beginning of the movie was a statement against the pursuit of perfection by means of perfecting the body and brain. Wealth of living is not found in the the physical plain, but in the spirit in which each day is lived.
Add to all this wounderful cinnematography, an unforgettable musical score, and fine acting that meld together into a fluid whole, and you've got a fantastic movie that repays many viewings.
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on March 31, 1999
This superb near-future science fiction piece offers the perfect antidote to the tired, "cyberpunk", post-apocalyptic view usually taken by writers when predicting future society. Set in "the not-too-distant future" - a technologically advanced yet stylistically fifties world - the film portrays the social consequences of today's genetic research carried forward to extremes. Society has become divided; a new underclass created not according to race, sex, or financial means but "bad" genetic material - those born "on faith" rather than being genetically engineered to their parents' specifications. Gattaca tells the story of Vincent, one of the so-called "In-valids" who has the willpower to succeed in life but is oppressed because he is genetically inferior. To achieve his goal of joining the Gattaca space corporation and travelling into space he assumes the identity of a "Valid" - Eugene - by fooling the all-pervading genetic testing machines with samples of his blood, urine, skin and hair. Eugene - who seems to have every advantage in life - is bitter because he lacks the drive to use his gifts to the full, and is now crippled after a failed attempt at suicide. The film's overriding feature is the palpable tension created as Vincent must hide every trace of his being from those investigating a crime committed in his workplace - the attention to detail is superb. Overall, a thoughtful - if a little extreme - treatment of genetic research and the importance of the intangible aspects of the being as opposed to quantifiable features.
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on January 13, 2000
This movie is completely mesmerizing, from its intelligent, thought-provoking script, to its eminently watchable cast and its profound humanity. The stylish look and feel of the movie, with its cool locations set in the not-too-distant future, nevertheless feel very real; indeed the whole premise feels entirely possible. Jude Law, lately of The Talented Mr. Ripley, is simply spectacular in a role that requires an actor of great power. I never understood why this film did not do much better in its initial release; it is a science fiction film with a heart and a brain, more in the realm of Contact. And the Michael Nyman musical score (The Piano)underscores the proceedings with an intensely melancholy theme, punctuating the sadness and triumphs of people not too different from ourselves caught in a world that seems to have forgotten what makes humans human.
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on January 11, 2006
I'm sorry, this review is not for the movie itself (an excellent 5-star movie) but this particular version of it. The end of the movie, I believe, it the most powerfull part of it: a list of the people who would not be born if these were our ways, and the message "the other birth that certainly would not have taken place, is your own". This is the entire point of the movie, and for some rediculous reason, has been removed from this version. Don't tell me they couldn't fit the last 20 seconds onto a DVD.
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