Movie Review #794: Boasting a terrific cast, ‘Gattaca’ is a scary look into the future of science and the ethics of transhumanism.

By Red Stewart

Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi
Rated PG-13 (contains violence, sexual content, profanity)
106 minutes

Junior year of high school, I was required to read Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World, and while I was personally turned off by the writing style, I was impressed by Huxley’s predictions of the future given that science wasn’t up to par in 1931. The idea of humans being genetically bred to create class distinctions was a much more accurate depiction of the possible future than the paranoid totalitarian vision George Orwell popularized in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

66 years later, here is “Gattaca”, another look into the future where in-vitro humans are favored in the world over natural-breds due to their perfect genetic makeup. This partiality has lead to mass discrimination against natural born children in the jobs market, where they are usually employed as custodians or janitors.

At the center of every inequitable story is that of one person trying to fight against society. Ethan Hawke plays Vincent Anton Freeman, a natural who dreams of becoming an astronaut despite the negative climate against his kind. He discovers an opportunity to move forward in life when a valid named Gerome (Jude Law) offers him the chance to deceive the system by becoming him through various tricks that you’ll see if you choose to watch the movie.

“Gattaca” is a scary film, not because of any horror tropes in it, but because it depicts a very realistic future not too far away from us. We are already capable of growing IV babies, so it’s only a matter of time before doctors are able to create biologically perfect human beings. When that day comes, the question will be what becomes of us? Humanity has shown, throughout history, to have a hard time adapting to change; heck, we’re still struggling to give equality to members of the LGBTQA community as it is. Genetic discrimination will just be another idiotic phase this species goes through.

“Gattaca” doesn’t try and focus on a solution to the entire problem though, instead minimizing its focus to just the efforts of one man and the lengths he goes to, to follow through on his goals. Hawke expresses that emotional turmoil Anton must feel perfectly, having to put so much effort in his daily life while everyone else walks around like this situation is normal. Uma Thurman, who I swear has done a poor job in practically every non-Tarantino film, is outstanding here as Anton’s supervisor and love interest, being the only character that suffers from cognitive dissonance with the restrictions implemented on the “invalids”. And last, but certainly not least, is the always charismatic Jude Law. Gerome is the most interesting of the bunch since he only hints at his background, and tries to maintain a flat attitude towards his peers. One scene stands out in particular where Law had to climb up a flight of stairs without the use of his legs, which he does greatly without inspiring any unintentional comedy.

“Gattaca” isn’t a philosophical quandary so much as it is a drama played out in this period. Writer/director Andrew Niccol implements the right amount of social commentary without appearing forceful or non-existent. “Gattaca” won’t inspire debate among politicians and scientists, but it will leave some complicated questions in your head. ✴


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