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Volume 91, Issue 34
Wednesday, October 29, 1997
A perfect world = a perfect film?
DON'T WORRY DARLING, YOU LOOK PERFECT. Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke are endangered but aesthetically perfect in the biological thriller Gattaca.
By Craig Smye
In the 21st century world of Gattaca, destiny is decided in a petri dish. Genes are mapped out as close as possible to perfection. Babies conceived naturally are considered inherently flawed, termed 'In-valids' and relegated to the lower echelons of society.
Gattaca's hero, Vincent, is an In-valid because his natural conception has left him myopic and subject to a serious heart condition. The viewer realizes early on, however, through flashbacks, that Vincent will not be held back by people's expectations. He dreams of joining the Gattaca Corporation's first manned mission to Saturn, a privilege reserved for Valids only. With the help of a shady DNA broker, he is able to swap identities with a recently paralyzed Valid who happens to be an aeronautical navigator for the Saturn mission. When the project director is murdered, Vincent becomes a suspect due to a single stray eyelash found on the scene. The tension mounts as the authorities close in and Vincent clings desperately to his dream.
The casting of the film is almost perfect. Ethan Hawke (Reality Bites) is Vincent. Irene is played by Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction), in her typical, I'm-way-too-beautiful-for-this-role style. Jude Law gives a notable performance as the accident victim who sells his identity to Vincent. His is the best-written, best-acted part in the film. He manages to garner real audience sympathy through simple, subtle nuances in his acting. The relationship between he and Vincent and the blurring of their identities is one of the more intriguing elements of the story.
The love-interest subplot with Irene, a Valid Gattaca employee, feels clunky and intrusive at times. There is no apparent chemistry between the two stars and this is also the least well-written aspect of the story. Although events revolve around the cat-and-mouse thriller aspect of the plot, the real meat of this story is the indomitable nature of the human spirit. The audience is rooting for an affirmation of the axiom that "All men are created equal."
Writer/director Andrew Nicol's feature debut is a fairly satisfying film. Gattaca treats its heady subject matter with intelligence the only sci-fi film other than Contact to do so this year. The feeling of a future society is delivered by the omnipresence of radical social change, in lieu of the odd techno-gadget shot. The cinematography is beautiful and clean, suited to the sterile corporate setting of the film. The score is one of the best so far this year, stirring and subtle. The costumes are well-done, but the relatively small number of sets left one wanting to see more of this world.
Nicol is very adept at prolonging tension, as most of this relatively quiet film is spent with a nagging sense of impending doom in the pit of one's stomach. The best word to describe Gattaca would be "inspirational." The film drives home the truth that people are capable of anything they set their minds to.
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