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Overall Rating
4.05

Awesome44.74%
Worth A Look: 32.89%
Average: 13.16%
Pretty Bad: 1.32%
Total Crap: 7.89%

3 reviews, 58 user ratings


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Gattaca
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Exquisite sci-fi drama."
5 stars

Under the opening credits of 'Gattaca,' huge, mysterious objects fall to the ground and land with oppressive, Dolbyized thuds and clatters. Elephant tusks? Downed power lines? Volcanic ash? No, they are fingernails, eyelashes, and dead skin, respectively -- telltale carriers of our genetic codes.

Part of the magic of Gattaca, the best (and best-looking) science-fiction film since Brazil, is the way it focuses our attention on the detritus we shed everywhere. Our bodily wastes, ourselves? You better believe it. In the world of Gattaca, God isn't in the details -- our DNA is. Biology is truly destiny.

Gattaca is set in "the not-too-distant future," when perfect humans ("valids") are bred by computer and trained for elite jobs, while "Godchildren" -- people born the old-fashioned, imperfect way -- are doomed to marginal lives as cogs in the machine. Of course, pessimists will say that the future of Gattaca is already here -- that we are entering a techno-fascist era full of self-righteousness and empty of compassion. This is what dystopian fiction has always pointed out in the guise of sci-fi, but Gattaca chillingly captures the quick-fix, intolerant mood of the no-sex-no-drugs-no-nothing '90s, and where it might logically lead.

New Zealand commercial director Andrew Niccol, making a superbly assured feature debut, wraps his message in a paranoid neo-noir plot. The hero, Vincent (Ethan Hawke), is a Godchild with a heart condition and an "expiration date" of about 30 years. He dreams of being an astronaut, but the prestigious Gattaca space corporation will hire him only as a janitor. Vincent resigns himself to sweeping up the dead skin of "valids" until he meets a genetic black-marketeer (Tony Shalhoub), who sets up a deal between Vincent and a disabled "valid," Jerome (Jude Law). Vincent will pose as Jerome, using Jerome's blood, hair, skin, and even urine to fake out Gattaca's hypersensitive genetic screening and win a seat on the next space shot.

The weird physical details of Vincent's fakery alone would make Gattaca fascinating. But Niccol ups the ante when a Gattaca bigwig turns up dead -- and a stray eyelash of Vincent's is found at the crime scene. Will Vincent be caught (even if he's innocent of the murder), or will he sustain his ruse? The real paranoia of Gattaca is in its theme: the destiny of biology can be avoided for a while, but eventually it catches up with you (you can't get much more noir than that).

Most sci-fi movies look great because of cutting-edge special effects and lavish sets. Gattaca has few special effects, and its sets are struck from the stark, antiseptic mold of David Cronenberg movies. Yet the movie is at least as stunning as Blade Runner or Brazil. Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak (who shot a few Krzysztof Kieslowski films, including Blue) is a sorcerer conjuring with golden browns and muted violets; this is one of the most beautifully photographed movies of the decade. Uma Thurman, as Vincent's lover Irene, has never been more radiant -- I wished there were more women in the movie to enjoy Idziak's lavish lighting.

Gattaca is a "soft" science-fiction film -- i.e., it depends less on hardware than on character and ideas. It may not be a hit -- the Saturday-night, opening-weekend show I attended was considerably less than packed -- but it's ideal for cult-movie reappraisal in a few years (just as Blade Runner and Brazil flopped and went on to become classics -- and those films, like Gattaca, got a largely ho-hum response from American critics).

As the movie winds down, so do its momentum and logic, but I didn't honestly care. 'Gattaca' is the most elegant and hypnotic sci-fi thriller in years -- a vision as dazzling as it is bleak.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=472&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/24/07 10:47:57
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/03/16 Anne tried so hard to like it..... 2 stars
8/22/13 PAUL SHORTT GLOSSY SCI-FI, WITH GREAT PERFORMANCES 3 stars
2/10/09 natalie jones fab its got so much detail but its way to complicated fot a 13 yr old to watch lol 5 stars
5/24/07 Lauren Was forced to watch it for school- dullest movie invented 1 stars
11/17/06 J.Pet One of the most over looked films in decades. A classic! 5 stars
7/31/06 Marty I can't remember ever being more bored. The flaws kept me awake. 1 stars
5/07/06 PDF Best movie ever 5 stars
4/11/06 Indrid Cold Despite flirting with some big issues, it's really just a repetitive murder mystery. 3 stars
11/02/05 che (cube) nice movie but not so good actors 4 stars
8/30/05 tatum Interesting, but too reserved and cold 4 stars
8/23/05 ES First rate, inspirational and disheartening all at once, great cast 4 stars
6/28/05 Ionicera visually nice but the ideas aren't explored and plot is pretty thin 3 stars
3/18/05 Tom Perhaps the purest SciFi film ever made. Characters are driven by the SciFi Premise. 5 stars
1/26/05 prue great movie 4 stars
12/24/04 salam it has a usefull goal concerning discrimination 4 stars
12/20/04 Mike Makes me cry every time and I'm not a weeper. What a great, thoughtful scifi film. 5 stars
10/23/04 ODH A sci-fi flick that actually gets you to think? Great movie 5 stars
6/14/04 PR Best Movie ever- Even better than Blade Runner 5 stars
5/05/04 JR Francisco Lombo: I can't believe you think that. Best Sci-fi movie by a mile! 5 stars
11/19/03 s'tude one of my faves. Visually and aurally beautiful, with intellectual meat to chew on too. 5 stars
10/29/03 Nicole Great Sci/Fi 4 stars
10/07/03 matt The best kind of SF film as it deals with ideas. Genuinely quite affecting I think. 5 stars
10/02/03 Jinnvisible Unusuall mix,,, social caste system,science fiction,romance,thriller, ----------works well. 4 stars
9/25/03 Gray important film 5 stars
9/22/03 Darryl One of the 90's best. Hawke and Law are both excellent. Thought-provoking story. 5 stars
9/20/03 R. R. Great movie, if you believe it suck then you're obviously not intellectual. 5 stars
8/10/03 Jean I loved it. One of my favorite movies. Especially loved interaction between Hawke and Law. 5 stars
6/19/03 Francisco Lombo VERY BAD MOVIE, the story MIGHT have something originally, but it is really badly narrated 1 stars
6/15/03 E I normally don't like movies like this, but hey, this one was pretty damn good. 4 stars
3/28/03 Atanu The movie was great, wish it wasn't uma thurman though. 5 stars
3/26/03 Jack Sommersby One of 1997's 10-best films. 4 stars
2/08/03 natasha_theobald riveting performances and taut drama with a fascinating sci-fi storyline 4 stars
1/14/03 TheBomb69 enjoyed it, quit comparing to other Sci-Fi flicks 4 stars
2/25/02 Becca Loved it !!! 4 stars
10/31/01 Patch Must See 5 stars
10/22/01 P.Rodriguez Had To Give A higher Mark. The Director of Photography who worked in this movie rocks! 5 stars
4/02/01 Indira Garcia I think this movie was worth a look 4 stars
4/01/01 Jesse L please don't make me watch it ever again... 1 stars
3/08/01 Sanja great imagination 5 stars
2/06/01 mister char utter crap 1 stars
10/24/00 Viking Brilliant. Sci-fi doesn't need state of the art special effects to convey it's message 5 stars
7/08/00 gromm The story has a really great idea, but doesn't _quite_ follow through, unfortunately. 4 stars
5/18/00 clear and crisp agree.. this is a rare movie about both hope and despair. looks gorgeous too. 5 stars
5/08/00 seldom scene interesting subject matter, ending suffers 4 stars
5/03/00 P.Rodriguez I forward Rue the Whirls opinion kick TMC out- This IS THE BEST MOVIE EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
4/28/00 Rue the Whirl Please stop letting ignorant "teen movie critics" give reviews. Please? 5 stars
4/19/00 malcolm scifi, crime suspense, romance. well paced. thurman never has turned me on. 5 stars
2/24/00 Jeebo1 this is seriously shit 1 stars
1/17/00 cosmo terrific, intelligent, provocative, beautiful, well acted 5 stars
1/09/00 unstrung a stroy about hope--something i dearly miss 5 stars
10/17/99 Shelagh I thought it was special. It really made me think. It was careful and calm. 5 stars
8/18/99 Japtalian Intelligent scifi. Very subtle, entertaining film. 4 stars
6/15/99 Dylan Very under-rated. Gattaca is intelligent and (mostly) unpretentious. A must see. 4 stars
4/15/99 Jon Jackson Surprise, it doesn't suck! 4 stars
1/03/99 Dasha Cold and distant, but I loved it. Must Uma Thurman be so damn beautiful? 5 stars
1/01/99 jvt Some silly moments but mostly worthwhile 3 stars
12/06/98 d`d` Good science fiction is linked to science fact, it's conceptually as scary as Truman Show 5 stars
8/25/98 Pete Enjoyed it more than I thought. I normally dispise Ethan Hawke, but he wasn't bad. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  24-Oct-1997 (PG-13)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Andrew Nicol

Written by
  Andrew Nicol

Cast
  Ethan Hawke
  Uma Thurman
  Gore Vidal
  Xander Berkeley
  Jayne Brook
  Elias Koteas



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