In a future in which genetic perfection is not only the norm, but a prerequisite for attaining any position beyond the most menial labor tasks, one man –amongst the last of the “genetically inferior” children born into this brave new world– has come up with a way to fool the system.
Despite extreme myopia and a heart condition that has given him a less than thirty year life expectancy, Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) has never wavered in his pursuit of his lifelong dream of space travel. Knowing that his future as the “in-valid” Vincent is limited, he leaves his old identity behind and enlists the services of Jerome Morrow (Jude Law) – a recently paralyzed “valid”. Using Jerome’s genetic material (blood, skin, hair, urine), Vincent assumes his identity, goes to work for the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation, and ultimately secures a spot on a manned mission to Saturn. He also develops a dangerous relationship with Irene (Uma Thurman); a “valid” with a secret of her own.
Just as it seems that Vincent is about to live out his life’s desire, the Saturn mission director is found murdered, and Vincent’s eyelash is found at the scene. While Vincent has all but erased every facet of his old self’s existence, a team of investigators – including Vincent’s “valid” brother – launch a full scale manhunt for the “in-valid” that his somehow infiltrated Gattaca, and it’s only a matter of time before they discover the true identity of Jerome Morrow.
When I first saw Gattaca, the film completely won me over with the way it managed to successfully blend an intelligent science fiction story with stirring human drama and nail-biting suspense. Now, several years later, I’m equally awed by the film’s prophetic nature and its merits as a cautionary tale. This is a truly beautiful and evocative movie that transcends the boundaries of genre and becomes something so much more than a simple piece of Sci-fi; this is a love letter to the human race, and the differences that make us who and what we are. It’s no accident that Gattaca seems like such a sterile and oppressive place. This is a world in which children are made to order; a civilization free of disease, physical ailments, and mental deficiencies, yet also devoid of the character, determination, and spirit that these “genetic abnormalities” bring to the human experience. And, while the scientists of Gattaca may have managed to suppress physical flaws, even they can’t stifle the most primal and negative traits of man - namely hatred, jealousy, and deceit.
Of course, Gattaca’s message wouldn’t be nearly as effective were it not for the performances of Hawke, Thurman, and, especially, Law, who owns the film for every moment he is onscreen, and director Andrew Niccol’s minimalist, subtly Kubrickian approach to the material. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Michael Nyman’s gorgeous score, as it is the driving force behind many of the film’s most emotionally charged scenes, and I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s so effective a piece of music that it still brings tears to my eyes with every viewing.
Sony delivers Gattaca in a jaw-dropping 1080p AVC transfer that boasts a razor sharp, vibrant image of startling depth and clarity. The film’s intentionally limited color palette is balanced and true, with lush blacks and blinding whites existing harmoniously and without distortion or flickering. I found only negligible amounts of blocking during one very dark night scene outside of Vincent and Jerome’s housing complex, but I never noticed it again during any of the film’s other dark sequences. There’s a negligible amount of grain present in some of these scenes as well, but I’m not quite convinced that this isn’t due to budgetary restraints, stylistic choice, or a combination of both. In any event, it isn’t remotely distracting; I only mention it as I’m sure someone out there will notice it and wonder why I didn’t bring it up.
In case it isn’t already clear to you, Gattaca isn’t your typical science fiction film, and, for the most part, the film’s sonic landscape is very subdued. As a result, the film’s Dolby 5.1 True HD soundtrack won’t really bowl you over until Nyman’s majestic score comes into play, and it’s represented beautifully. Otherwise, there’s not a whole lot of acoustic excitement here as Gattaca doesn’t employ much by way of the sort of sound effects befitting such audio treatment.
This new special edition of Gattaca on Blu-ray offers a selection of both old and new material including “Welcome to Gattaca”; an all-new 1080p featurette sporting interviews with Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law, with each offering their own insight into their characters, and the making of the film. The all-new, Gore Vidal narrated mini-documentary “Do Not Alter”, focuses on the science behind the Gattaca (presented in standard definition). Rounding out the extras are the film’s original EPK, a collection of deleted scenes, and several HD trailers for other Sony BD titles.
I say this without hesitation; Gattaca is a perfect film, and amongst the best examples of serious Sci-fi cinema I’ve ever seen. This visionary masterpiece gets the treatment it deserves on Blu-ray, with a transfer nearly as flawless as the film itself, and a bevy of bonus feature that, while not quite as comprehensive as I would have liked (an Andrew Niccol commentary would have complemented the set quite nicely), offers new insight into this wonderful film.