This spooky, imaginative movie hangs disturbing questions on a mediocre story line.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"Gattaca" is science fiction with an edge. As a genetic engineering thriller set not in the distant future, but tomorrow, it has a dramatic immediacy equal almost to threat. Though the world may argue about the ethics and morality of its infinite uses, genetic engineering will be used. First, of course, it will alleviate human suffering, no argument there. After that it will go wherever it leads the inventive and determined scientist. A piano piece that can be played only by 12 fingers? Presto.

And so, to Gattaca. As Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is born, his genetic profile is lifted from his foot. He will die at 30, has poor eyesight and a weak heart. As an "Invalid," Vincent is eligible only for manual labor. Why waste education on an early death? So Vincent cleans the floors at the Gattaca Corporation with no hope of realizing his dream of riding corporate rockets to distant planets.

Determined to alter his fate, Vincent buys a false genetic identity from a black marketeer. He needs the helix of an engineered human being. Jerome, whose perfection is useless to him after a paralyzing accident, sells his quality urine and blood to Vincent, who uses them to bluff his way through life's genetic testing. Vincent is whole, but imperfect; Jerome is perfect, but broken.

In a world where emotion still lives, Vincent is attracted to Irene (Uma Thurman), whose heart ailment allows her to work only at a ground-level job at Gattaca. While Irene accepts her sentence, Vincent brings rage to the dilemma of being slotted for life by his genetic profile. They inhabit the eerie silence of people under surveillance.

The cast is mixed. Ethan Hawke is adequate, but cool, as Vincent. Jude Law is marvelous as the crippled Jerome, Alan Arkin excellent as a fiery investigator. Together they give warmth to this cold movie. Gore Vidal brings a welcome human weariness to his corporate director; Loren Dean is abysmally weak as the genetically pure brother, who is supposed to heighten the contrast between the "Valids" and "Invalids."

This spooky, imaginative movie hangs disturbing questions on a mediocre story line. It is refreshing to see a futuristic film about people, not gadgets; interesting to hear the new questions. How will our behavior be affected by genetic engineering? When discrimination becomes a science, how will we feel about a world run by the pure who are served by the impure? Can engineered beings retain humanity?

What a perfect circle. From the days when the symbolism of bloodlines determined fate and fortune, we have passed through a relatively humane era of trying to make things work for everybody. Now, it seems, we are heading once again toward a stratified society based on blood--not the symbolism of blood, but its reality. The Valids of Gattaca will set the parameters, the Invalids will rest resentfully in the underclass, and those in between will try to beat the system. Sound familiar?

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 498
Studio : Columbia Pictures
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h52m

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