Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Gattaca is without a doubt one of the great overlooked science fiction films of the 1990s. It is a film with a flair for presenting both ideas and striking visuals.

In the future, when genetic engineering has reached the point where society considers people "in-valid" if they were not fully engineered in their mother's womb to reach maxium physical and mental potential. In-valids are relegated to the lower caste jobs such as janitorial work, while the more perfect folks get to be shot out into space by the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation, be a police detective, or olympic athlete.

Vincent (A subdued, but determined Ethan Hawke) dreams of space travel, but had the misfortune of his parents choosing him an untampered natural birth. But he has the gumption to sneak his way into Gattaca's astronaut training programme by faking his DNA. To do this, he is hooked up by a black-market salesmen (Tony Shalhoub in a nice cameo) with a crippled ex-athlete (a career making performance from Jude Law) who provides skin, hair and urine samples to fool Gattacas doctors. As he is on the eve of realizing his dreams, two things jeopardize the realization. First is a romantic entanglement with hyper-intelligent and flat out stunning co-cadet Irene (Uma Thurman, 100% sleek curves, but fully convincing in the role of math genius) giving him a reason to stay earthbound. Second is the murder of a Gattaca Mission Control officer (another nice cameo from Gore Vidal); the investigation of which brings two very curious detectives into the building. The laser-focus of the investigation runs a real risk of exposing his real identity or landing him in jail for a murder he did not commit.

In modern sports parlance, it would be called "heart"; the undefinable quality which elevates a great athlete from merely a skilled one. Gattaca takes the romantic stance that a flawed person with heart can rise about the perfectly engineered by sheer force of will. It develops this idea in the context of genetic control to the fullest but has time to stop for some quirky and humourous touches. Take the 12 fingered pianist who can play more complex concerto than Beethoven due to the extra digits. Or the noirish old-school detective, deliciously played by Alan Arkin, who goes on instinct rather than process. How for instance, did he keep his job in this future of statistical societal control? Lastly, the sparse architecture somewhere between art deco and suburban research park and the Mormon-esqe dress code lend a surreal not-to-distant future feel to the film. The title itself is a sequence of amino acid which can't help but bring up the image of either a microscopic plant cell morphing into a solar body or a long, cold double-helix.

There is not a weak performance here, and the film crackles with an slow-burn intensity, despite having little action beyond a half-blind Vincent trying to cross a busy street. The action here is in the exploration of ideas.

Come out and enjoy this perfect little Gem of a film. If you've managed to see it already, trust me, a second viewing is equally as pleasurable. Tuesday, December 6 - 8pm for drinks. 8:30pm - Trailers (X-Men3 and Trailer Park Boys!) and Film.


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