Rated PG-13 - Running time: 1:52 - Released 10/24/97

Author's Note: This is one of the ten movie reviews I wrote for the October 30, 1997 issue of The Republican, the first week my reviews were ever published there. Because of space and time requirements, these ten reviews had to be especially brief, some even shorter than this Author's Note. Someday I will re-view them and re-review them so as to provide a more in-depth commentary, but for now you'll just have to live with the short version. Sorry. --JRM
It is a world where genetic engineering has become the rule rather than the exception. Where parents are encouraged to pre-arrange their babies' genes to ensure the highest quality and least likelihood of disease or imperfection. It is a future world of 12-fingered pianists and electric cars, where a blood sample is all the ID you'll ever need, and all you'll ever be judged by.

Yeah, okay, but as with all future movies, there are things they didn't consider, and that's what brings the whole thing down. Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) is an "in-valid," in other words, a natural baby not pre-engineered. And people like that are treated with prejudice and contempt among the "valids," and they are only given the janitor jobs at Gattaca, the apparent descendent of NASA, whose name is cleverly concocted from the four letters CATG, the beginning letters of the four acids that make up DNA. (No one explains why else the space agency would be called this — perhaps they are advertising their ridiculous prejudice.) But Vincent wants to be a spaceman, and he assumes the identity (complete with daily blood and urine samples) of one of the "valids" (Jude Law) who had a spinal injury and was unable to continue his stellar sports career. For some reason (it can't be money; Ethan has none), this guy is willing to bleed and urinate into bottles every day to help Ethan with his dream.

But what's most irritating is that, as usual, the producers seem to think that the future will be cold, sterile, and colorless, filled with Stepford wives (and husbands) engineered for intelligence and physical stamina. If genetic engineering was the norm, wouldn't parents want their kids to be artistic, fun-loving, likeable? If the chance of disease or frailty was removed, wouldn't there be more fun, more partying, more laughing? It's an interesting concept, but a dated delivery.

At least in this future world, the space agency is finally getting the funding it needs, launching several rockets a day. Despite its flaws, this is still a fascinating story, and adequate performances by Hawke, Law, and Uma Thurman as Hawke's "valid" girlfriend who still loves him after she finds out he's the future equivalent to white trash. ***½

Copyright 1997 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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