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IN SHORT: Solid story, but cold and passionless.
Gattaca posits a world far beyond anything the Third Reich dreamed of fifty years ago. It isn't the bloodline that is the marker between civilized and beast man, it is the genes within the blood. In the world of the future, the perfect, "valid" children are fertilized in vitro. Their imperfections are removed and small adjustments -- eye and skin color, intelligence, susceptibility to disease and other minor things -- are made to the improved, more "perfect" human.
Everyone else, the naturally conceived "god children" are considered "in-valid" and are subject to subservient roles in society. This is the world of the Gattaca corporation, which send space missions off on a daily basis to the outer planets and inner worlds. Consider then the plight of Vincent (Ethan Hawke), an in-valid who wants to fly to the stars. His eyes are myopic; his heart is doomed from birth; he's always in the shadow of a younger, valid brother. In short, the cards are dealt and he came up short.
What would you do if you had the chance to borrow a life, to pass yourself off as valid and attain the goals you always wanted? That is the story behind Gattaca, a stylish (in the 50s mold) piece of work that is, unfortunately, emotionally chilly. It seems that, with genetic perfection, emotions like anger can be diminished. With no physical sex, there is no passion. With no passion, there is nothing but old jazz to get you through the night.
The identity Vincent takes on, with the help of a gene broker played by ever surprising Tony Shalhoub is that of Jerome Morrow (portrayed by Jude Law), an Olympic silver medalist whose broken back cripples his legs. What the men have to go through to pull the charade off is remarkable. That the prejudice against the lower classes is virulent is not, especially when one of the Vincent's boss is brutally murdered and a microscopic sweep of the area reveals Vincent's in-valid eyelash. Revelation will destroy his chance for the stars. More important it will destroy his chance for a long term love life with the ever lovely Irene (Uma Thurman) a co-worker whose heart condition, her only flaw, will keeps her prisoner to this planet.
The world that writer/director Andrew Nicoll has created is lush and gorgeous. It is a well portrayed society, cold and emotionless. When passion is injected, it feels out of place. When tension is injected, it works better. The valids are, almost to a fault, perfect Aryan folks that would make any Nazi proud. Those valids that aren't find themselves working the middle class gigs like the zealous Detective Hugo (Alan Arkin) [or the black nightclub hostess.] Not an appetizing world.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Gattaca, he would have paid . . .
A well written mystery is at the heart. Cranky sees so many of these things I thought too far down the line and guessed wrong. Point to Nicoll. Ernest Borgnine is the janitor who knows more than he'll say. Gore Vidal is the Mission Director who may be doing the same. Gattaca is beautiful to look at, but cold as ice.
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