"Gattaca" Review
© 1997 Fontaine L.
- spoilers -

Nothing is what it seems to be. In the movie "Gattaca," Valid and Invalid are exchanged--the Valid is sitting in the wheelchair moping through life, the Invalid is now a member of the elite about to embark on a mission to space. Even the movie is not what it seems to be--a point which will be elaborated on later. "Gattaca" presents a creative and possibly adequate view of the "not too distant" future, quite similar to that of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World."

The movie is stylish, well-written and directed, creative, and visually breathtaking--a nice departure from the movies we are accustomed to seeing. It has a noir-ish look, and almost classical beauty. The musical score is well done as well--though it sometimes can become annoying when music isn't really necessary. The set decoration fits the movie's vision of the future: rigid, impeccable, beautiful. The men and women alike are dressed in suave black suits, their hair slicked back. Not a pair of jeans to be seen. If "Gattaca" had not triumphed in its story-telling, it certainly has won the audience with an environment that seems foreign yet strangely familiar at the same time. There is the familiar sea and the familiar sun--but all projected in a different way. There is the familiar look of many a modern office in our society. The look of Vincent and Jerome's home is perhaps sought after by many Park Avenue billionaires; and genetic engineering is visible in our future horizon.

The implications of the film are truly frightening--that even a single body cell may give away Vincent (Ethan Hawke), the Invalid posing as a Valid. Most of the suspense of the movie comes from this pretense. The movie, in true essence, is not an action film (as you can see it does not really pace up until the better half), but an ambitious peek into the future and an epic about one wolf's lone journey among the sheep of the elite. I am, however, slightly underwhelmed by the performances of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman-- but their rigidity and "cool exterior" suit the atmosphere of the film well. Notable are also the actors who play Anton and Jerome Morrow.

Generally speaking, the film may be seen as an effort to remind people of what is really important--determination, not talent, paraphrasing Einstein. That "what can be dreamed can be achieved." There are examples of these success stories in our society, and the success of Vincent/Jerome is the success from a future where all odds are against him, where intelligence and physical ability determines aristocracy. If there is any other message from the movie it is lost somewhere.

I interpret the movie as the ultimate orthodox--as I have said, things are not always what they seem. See how the real Jerome Morrow suffers when he is genetically supreme, how even predestined success cannot prevent an act of carelessness from destroying his life completely. The film seems to be cynical and pessimistic about our future, but there are yet roses to be found in the graveyard. If Vincent can find happiness even in such an environment, what are small obstacles to us? Before you wince at my moral lectures, see how the film defines beauty. There maybe cold, impersonal office buildings, but there is still marvelous beauty in nature that cannot be replaced. There are people who do still care about others, people who are wise enough to see that genetics isn't everything--the doctor, for example. There are still people like the real Jerome Morrow, whose sacrifices help others succeed. In other words, there is still hope, still things that will never change, no matter what.

The ultimate question is not whether you are good enough, it is whether you care enough.

Rating: B (First viewing, 11/1/97)