In the not too distant future you can have the child of your dreams. Don’t want your child to have violent tendencies? The geneticists can remove that gene. Disease? The geneticist can tell how long your child will live, what the child will die from, and can eliminate that gene also. Want the child to be a piano prodigy? Well, lets give him twelve fingers.
The premise for Gattaca is great. In the not too distant future, DNA manipulation is helping society crank out near perfect children. Natural inception is no longer wanted, instead, society has geneticists who will help create the perfect child. Everything about a person can be told with as little as a hair, dandruff, a drop of blood, or saliva.
Though law prohibits gene discrimination, the law against this discrimination is also not well administered. Discrimination is now not based on sex, age, or skin color, but on genes. Obviously, the perfected or valid children get more than the “unperfected” or in-valid children. Society is now split because of this. Vincent is one of the “unperfected” children growing up with his older brother who is a perfected child. Vincent aims to go to the stars, but, because of his genes, companies will accept him. Because no matter how hard he tries, he will never have the genes of a laboratory created child, which is what the space company Gattaca is looking for.
Working with a gene broker, Vincent meets up with Jerome. Jerome is a perfected child but is now left to languish because he was hit by a car and is paralyzed from the waist down. Vincent uses Jerome’s blood, urine, and hair to get into Gattaca. But, after qualifying for a yearlong trip to a moon of Saturn, there is a murder in Gattaca and Vincent becomes the number one suspect.
Gattaca is a well-intentioned film with a well-intentioned message. And there are passages of Gattaca that are really enjoyable. The set design and the cinematography create a world where everything is sterile. But, the director and writer Andrew Niccol creates characters that are, unfortunately, also as sterile. The performances of the lead actors are just as sterile. Hawke shows little to no emotion during the film, even at the climax. Uma Thurman seems to be in the film just to look good.
What stands out and is not sterile are the supporting cast and the music. The supporting cast includes the inspector played by Alan Arkin and Jerome played by Jude Law. Arkin gives a wonderful performance but is not given enough screen time. Law is given more screen time and does a better job. Law is the one to look for during the film. The music is quiet and haunting and fits the movie just right.
Gattaca is without its flaws. Though, most of them don’t show up until one steps out of the theatre. For example, the security entrance for Gattaca uses a little pin that pricks one’s finger for blood that is instantaneously analyzed. This lets the computer allow or deny one’s entrance into the company based on their DNA. Vincent easily gets past this device, but I can thing of many ways that can be added to this device that are more conventional and less painful. (Maybe retinal scans? Fingers print?)
Gattaca is definitely a matinee film that, if you can wait, could be seen on video. A very well intentioned film that falls because of its length, exceptionally slow pace, and sterile performances by its lead actors. For those expecting to see some heavy sci-fi, action and special effects, you will be disappointed. This is a drama wrapped around a sci-fi premise.
“There is no gene for the human spirit.”