Movies transport us, thrill us, and move us. Good ones envelope us while we participate in them. When the story is done, we should feel something significant; a feeling almost equivalent to that of finishing a novel. Furthermore, the best ones stay with us. They provoke thoughts. They alter our moods. They remind us of the past. They might even change the way we perceive our lives and the people who inhabit them. Gattaca, one of the most enchanting science-fiction films that I have seen in a long time, does most of these things and more.
On the surface, the movie concerns themes of identity and social class. Set in “the not-so-far future,” the world of Gattaca is a place where parents can choose what their baby will be like (virtually everything about a baby can be altered before it is born), where society is split into two halves (the seemingly perfect Elites and the flawed In-Valids), where the genetically modified humans are given clear advantage over the “In-Valids.” The film centers on an In-Valid (played by Ethan Hawke) who seeks to fulfill his dream of traveling into outer space by assuming the identity of one of the genetically elite.
There are plenty of solid ideas to fuel a story for two hours. The filmmakers do a fine job of making Gattaca as cool and exciting as they can and the actors are completely believable in their roles. None of the performances particularly stand out to me perhaps because the cast is not asked to do anything extraordinary. They all do their jobs nicely, but the movie is better when it sticks to developing the story rather than trying to deepen our views of the characters. Andrew Niccol’s screenplay relies heavily on voice-over for the first half of the movie, a technique which is not usually the best way to cover the background of a story. Here however, the screenwriter’s mode of narration did not strike me as a lazy storytelling device, but it actually may have helped me better understand the main character.
The movie was written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who also wrote The Truman Show in addition to recently writing and directing In Time. I think The Truman Show is a great film. I also thought that In Time was one of the most underrated movies of 2011, even if not one of the best. Gattaca ranks somewhere between those two. It matches the futuristic aspects of Time with the emotion of Truman, creating exceptional entertainment. Anyone who loves science-fiction and has not seen Gattaca must take note. This movie is fun to watch and just as fun to think about afterwards.