Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, Gattaca is the story of a young man who hopes to travel to outer space despite dealing with prejudice as he hides his genetic imperfections in a futuristic world where science determines who can succeed or not. The film is a mixture of sci-fi with elements of drama and mystery as it also relates to this young man who pretends to be another as he becomes a murder suspect. Starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Loren Dean, Alan Arkin, Ernest Borgnine, Blair Underwood, Xander Berkley, Tony Shalhoub, Elias Koteas, and Gore Vidal. Gattaca is a riveting and evocative film from Andrew Niccol.

Set in a futuristic world where science determines one’s fate and when will that person die, the film revolves a young man who was conceived with genetic imperfections as he pretends to be another man in the hopes that he can travel to outer space. At the same time, he becomes a suspect over the death of mission control director as he learns that his younger brother is the detective leading the case. It’s a film that plays into this man who tries to prove that anything is possible in a world where one’s blood-type, urine sample, and such don’t determine one’s outcome. Yet, it is told from this man whose real name is Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) who would take the guise of another man in Jerome Morrow (Jude Law) who would aid Vincent in achieving his dream.

Andrew Niccol’s screenplay is told largely from Vincent’s perspective as it begins with him learning that is one week away from actually achieving his dream to go into outer space. Yet, a simple eyelash found during the murder of the mission control director would be the one thing that might stop him as its first act reveals not just Vincent’s conception but also how he was already determined by science into when he will die and what ailments he will have. Once his younger brother Anton (Loren Dean) is born and is promised all of the things that Vincent will never have because Anton was conceived through genetic selection instead of the natural conception that brought Vincent into the world. Yet, it would be a simple swimming game of chicken where Vincent realizes that anything is possible as he would meet the paralyzed Jerome who was once a swimming star and take on Jerome’s identity while the real Jerome would provide the urine and blood samples Vincent would need.

Once Vincent’s story into how he became Jerome takes up much of the film’s first act, the second act does have a shift in tone where it becomes a mystery as Vincent not only deals with being a suspect but also falls in love with a co-worker in Irene Cassini (Uma Thurman) who is a valid but is unable to travel due to her own heart issues. Yet, she would learn firsthand about who Vincent really is just as Anton suspects that his own brother is the killer due to the loose eyelash from Vincent though Anton isn’t sure since he believes his brother had already died. Especially as his partner Hugo (Alan Arkin) looks into other possibilities as it relates to the prejudices that is hinged upon society where even Jerome was affected by it as he had all of the potential in the world to succeed but failure only made him bitter and depressed. Even as he copes with the pressure that was put upon him making him and Vincent equal of sorts.

Niccol’s direction is truly mesmerizing in terms of not just the compositions but also in presenting a futuristic sci-fi film without the need to make it totally futuristic. Much of it has Niccol shooting on various locations in California through some amazing architectural designs that does give the film a somewhat futuristic look. Niccol’s rich compositions and the way he places some of the wide shots definitely add something that a look that sort of makes it futuristic while he also goes for these kind of intricate crowd shots of exactly what Vincent does when he’s at work as it sort of plays into something that feels bureaucratic in some respects. Especially as Vincent would get a glimpse of how those with perfect genes would live and how he as an invalid would have to live and work where he would start off cleaning windows and then find his way to be part of this space program.

Niccol’s approach to close-up and medium shots are also entrancing as it also includes a few handheld moments such as a chase scene involving Vincent, Irene, and Anton. It plays into not just some of the mystery but also the drama and romance as well as Niccol’s approach to framing the actors where the flashback scenes involving a young Vincent and Anton where Vincent is in the foreground while Anton and their parents are in the background. It establishes how disconnected Vincent is with his own family as well as the world he lives in as the third act showcases him not only trying to reveal some truth to those close to him. Especially as it revealed exactly how he managed to defy the odds in a world that prevents him from achieving his dreams. Overall, Niccol creates a compelling and ravishing film about a young man prejudiced in a futuristic world where science determines one’s fate.

Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak does phenomenal work with the film’s very colorful cinematography with its usage of filters and lighting schemes for some of the film’s interiors while maintaining something that is quite ethereal in its images as it’s among one of the film’s major highlights. Editor Lisa Zeno Churgin does excellent work with the editing as it is quite stylish with some of its rhythmic cuts and usage of dissolves to play into the drama and suspense. Production designer Jan Roefls, with set decorator Nancy Nye and art director Sarah Knowles, does amazing work with the set design from the look of Jerome‘s home as well as the building where Vincent would work as Jerome along with the nightclubs and such the two would go to. Costume designer Colleen Atwood does fantastic work with the costumes from the suits that Vincent and Jerome would wear as well as the trench coat/fedora look of Anton‘s partner Hugo and the dresses that Irene would wear.

Makeup supervisor Ve Neill and key hair stylist Bette Iverson do terrific work with the look of Vincent prior to meeting Jerome and how they would have the same haircut. Visual effects supervisor Jerry Pooler does nice work with some of the minimal visual effects as it relates to spaceship that Vincent wants to board into. Sound editor Richard King does superb work with the sound to play into some of the chaotic elements of the film along with some of the textures that Vincent would endure in his training. The film’s music by Michael Nyman is incredible for its lush orchestral score with elements of minimalist and soft piano textures as it plays into the drama

The casting by Francine Maisler is marvelous as it features notable small roles from Dean Norris as a beat cop, Ken Marino as a sequencing technician, Maya Rudolph as a delivery nurse, Gabrielle Reece as a trainer where Vincent works at, Vincent Nielson and William Lee Scott in respective versions of the adolescent and teenage Anton, Mason Gamble and Chad Christ in the respective version of the adolescent and teenage Vincent, Blair Underwood as a geneticist, Jayne Brook as Vincent and Anton’s mother who loves both sons as she ponders what Vincent will do, and Elias Koteas as Vincent and Anton’s father who seems to favor Anton more than Vincent as he wants his eldest to be more realistic in his dreams. Tony Shalhoub is terrific in a small role as a mysterious man who would help Vincent attain the look and genetics to be Vincent.

Ernest Borgnine is superb as an invalid named Caesar who leads the clean-up crew as he tells Vincent not to clean too well as he would later provide evidence into who might be the killer not knowing that Jerome is really Vincent. Gore Vidal is excellent as the mission flight director Josef who tries to deal with the murder in his building while aiding the detectives. Xander Berkley is amazing as Dr. Lamar who would interview Vincent for the job as he looks into many background checks as it’s a very low-key yet mesmerizing performance. Alan Arkin is fantastic as Detective Hugo as an old-school detective who aids Anton into finding the killer as he initially suspects the invalid Vincent while he goes into looking for other clues. Loren Dean is brilliant as Anton as Vincent’s younger brother who has become a detective as he realizes Vincent is a suspect while wondering if his brother is really alive when he was supposed to.

Jude Law is incredible as Jerome as a former swimming star who has become paralyzed as he aids Vincent in achieving his dream while revealing what happened when he became paralyzed as it showcased how much he and Vincent have in common. Uma Thurman is remarkable as Irene as a woman who works with Vincent as she falls for him unaware of who he really is as she would also make some major discoveries of her own while revealing her own flaws in her genes despite being valid. Finally, there’s Ethan Hawke in a phenomenal performance as Vincent Freeman as a man who was conceived naturally with genetic flaws as he is determined to buck an unjust system while coping with his own ailments as well as what he had to do to overcome them.

Gattaca is a spectacular from Andrew Niccol that features great performances from Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law. It’s a film that isn’t just a compelling and provocative sci-fi drama but also a film that explores the ideas of what happens if science determines one’s fate. In the end, Gattaca is an enchantingly rich and tremendous film from Andrew Niccol.

© thevoid99 2015


Brittani Burnham said...

I was just saying on Nostra's blog that Gattaca is very underrated, so it's nice to see you review it! I always thought it was an interesting film.

Ruth said...

I like the mystery aspect of this sci-fi, it's been ages since I saw it but I really should rewatch it soon. Hawke's quite compelling in the lead.

Anonymous said...

So glad you love this. It's one of the great forgotten sci-fi films of the 90's!

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-It's a better film than it ought to be and it's still watchable after so many years. I love it.

@ruth-It was on TV recently as I had seen it so many times. I knew I had to write a review of it.

@Fisti-I think it's one of the most underrated films of the past 25 years.

Chris said...

Definitely agree this movie is underrrated, one of my favorites from the 90s. A fascinating depiction of the future and I cared about the characters.

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-It's a film that has managed to get better and more talked about as the years go by which is what I think adds to its cult classic status.