Gattaca is a prime example of the retro science fiction. Which is to say that the look and the feel of the movie is strongly reminiscent of the popular depictions of the future that came out of the 1940s and '50s. I liked that part well enough but it is the plot that makes Gattaca such a memorable and thought-provoking movie.

Review by SAndman
June 30, 2008

Gattaca Movie

Writer and Director: Andrew Niccol

Ethan Hawke as Vincent Freeman
Uma Thurman as Irene Cassini
Jude Law as Jerome Eugene Morrow
Xander Berkeley as Dr. Lamar
Loren Dean as Anton Freeman
Ernest Borgnine as Caesar

Released: 1997

Vincent Freeman: I belonged to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the color of your skin. No, we now have discrimination down to a science.

Vincent was born with a heart disorder in a world of designer babies in which eugenics has become the norm. Feeling frustrated with their less-than-perfect offspring, his middle-class parents soon produce another child.

But this time they decide to do it right and take the fertilized ovum to a local hospital where the good doctors improve on its genome by way of extricating all the genes controlling hereditary diseases and socially unacceptable traits, such as propensity for aggression or less dangerous yet equally prejudiced against traits such as baldness or myopia.

The two brothers grow up and Vincent is the proverbial underdog while Anton excels in just about anything he does. However, in spite of the early setbacks Vincent secretly aspires to become an astronaut and so he sets out to join a highly selective recruitment program whose goal is finding candidates for a mission to one of Saturn's moons.

The program is supervised by a space-flight corporation named Gattaca, which is short for Guanine, Adenine, Thymine, Thymine, Adenine, Cytosine, Adenine - the names of the four DNA bases.

In a world where your DNA chart counts for more than your personal merits Vincent decides to beat the system at its own game.

The movie raises the issues of biological determinism and free will. It is also a movie about human fixation with perfection, and conflict between an individual and repressive society. Although there are no apparent scenes of state perpetrated violence and oppression, the atmosphere of the movie is claustrophobic enough.

However, there are also moments of tenderness as well as examples of friendship and loyalty in the movie. For all the uniformity forced on them by the standards of the day, the characters reveal very human urges and anxieties.

In short, Gattaca is a real treat combining lush visuals of the highest quality and a compelling human drama.

But perhaps there is another reason why I liked the movie so much - a personal reason which has nothing to do to with a nifty directing and class-act performances.

I remember back when I was in the 5th or 6th grade I had a very demanding P.E. teacher. I don't know what it was that I had done or what I had failed to do but one day he showed me up in front of the whole class. He said something to the effect that of all the kids in my class I was the one least likely to become an athlete. I guess back in those days P.E. teachers felt they had to be especially tough on kids. I don`t think he felt he was doing anything he wouldn't normally do.

Be that as it may, I know that for years on I refused to take part in anything that even remotely resembled a sporting activity.

I went through elementary school, high school, college-no sports! Until finally in my late twenties I took up running. Every now and then when I finish a stretch I think of that P.E. teacher.

These days I teach school, and I don't fool myself that I'm the best teacher ever. But no matter what I do or say in class I make sure of one thing: I never tell my students what they can or can't do.

We often discuss movies, my students and I. Though I try to keep my fandom outside classroom I consistently recommend Gattaca to them. The most important lesson they can take from Gattaca is that the biggest impediments are not those which are imposed from the outside but those which we impose on ourselves.

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