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GATTACA The Review

Human Rating: 3 / 5 Alien Rating: Crop Circle
 

G A T T A C A G A T T A C A G A T T A C A

GattacaHardly a day seems to go by without some researchers claiming to have discovered the gene for this condition or the gene for that affliction. If we are to believe these researchers, everything from obesity and myopia to homosexuality and manic depression can be attributed to our genetic make-up. Humanity, as we know it, seems to be reduced to a genetic sequence.

Of course, if the sum of our being can be attributed to genetics, then it only follows that it can be engineered. That is the premise behind the sci-fi thriller Gattaca. Set in a "not-so-distant future" (as the opening credits inform us), Gattaca deals with a future where it is possible genetically engineer all these "defects" out of newborn children. Not only can you as parent request that your children will not one day be afflicted by any debilitating heart diseases or other illnesses, you can also specify that they not suffer from any other "defects" - such as the tendency to fall prey to depression, acts of violence, "suffer" from homosexuality, etc.

GattacaObviously people genetically engineered this way (think Hitler's Übermensch come to real life and you'll get the picture) will have an edge in the workplace over those who are not. And thus the plot of Gattaca: Ethan Hawke, one of the genetical have-not's in this brave new world (called "invalids" in the movie) wants to desperately become an astronaut, but obviously cannot because of his untampered-with birth. He thus begins a deception by posing as a so-called "valid" to become an astronaut at a major space exploration company. He does this "borrowing" the blood, urine, hair and skin cells of a "valid" who has been crippled in an accident to pass the numerous tests one have to undergo to get and stay in the training course. But then a murder occurs at the company, some of his real hair gets picked up and soon the Ethan Hawke character is the prime suspect. Can he maintain his deception when the human body sheds several million cells each day - every single one of them betraying his true identity?

GattacaGattaca is a rarity. Along with Contact (1997) it counts as one of the few recent science fiction movie efforts that doesn't rely on a brain dead plot, extensive special effects and pyrotechnics, but instead on an interesting plot and its characters. However, unlike Contact (1997), one isn't that much drawn into its basic premise. To start with, the science is highly dubious. It is highly dubious whether any of the genetic engineering portrayed in the film will ever be possible - or so I am told by some experts in the field! Besides, Gattaca is the old "man shouldn't interfere with nature" theme rehashed and speaks more to our age's current misinformed technophobic fears than anything else. Say genetics and everybody thinks eugenics - the old Nazi humbug of creating perfect Aryan types. Furthermore, the film doesn't always maintain the level of suspense required to make it a really engrossing affair. Like the future it portrays, Gattaca is too detached and sterile. Besides, it is unlikely that the Ethan Hawke's character would escape detection for so long with the lots of security measures in place at the space corporation.

GattacaHowever, despite its flaws, Gattaca is to be commended. It is a step in the right direction for the sci-fi genre being more cerebral than visceral. So soon after viewing the blood and gore ridden Alien: Resurrection (1997) it was truly refreshing to see a film that doesn't rely on violence and explosions at all. Instead it has a more novelistic approach as it meticulously constructs its 1950s retro Blade Runner (1982)-like future world - and this immersion into plausible other worlds is after all the point of sci-fi. Just imagine if those genetic experts are wrong and it is possible to create the world of Gattaca...

Review by James O'Ehley from The Sci-Fi Movie Page.

 
 
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