Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Film Review--Gattaca

starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Gore Vidal, Xander Berkeley, Maya Rudolph, Blair Underwood, Ernest Borgnine, Alan Arkin, Tony Shaloub, and Hall and Oates as The Beav.

In a not-too-implausible future, people are separated according to their genetic enhancements.  Those without modifications are relegated only to manual labor.  One man (Hawke) refuses to accept this and follows his dream to travel in space.  To do this, he assumes the identity of another man (Law) who is genetically perfect but was crippled in a car accident.  Our protagonist spends years fooling and dodging DNA tests, until one cataclysmic event places his elaborate ruse on the line.

This film died a fiery death at the box office upon release in 1997 and it's obvious as to why.  It's slow, it's smart, it's superbly acted, and it does little in the way of special effects.  It is far from an estival romp.  This is a film that makes you think and that is a rarer and rarer occurrence lately in terms of science fiction.  There are enormous issues raised here.  Will entirely new forms of prejudice and discrimination come about as an unintended by-product of genetic engineering (in many respects, this is one of the best films I have seen on the subject of prejudice)?  Will we offer our orisons to the members of this new upper class rather than gods?  Just what is "identity?"  How far are you willing to go to get something that you want?
Sadly, this film does not come without its flaws.  Despite my earlier praise, it does get a bit too slow in spots and unfortunately it suffers from a weak ending.  But that is not nearly enough to dissuade me from seeing it again.  A few other fun perks include Gore Vidal in a rare acting role and Xander Berkeley, whom those of you who watch the mildly entertaining series Nikita will recognize as the deliciously evil Percy.

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