“I got the better end of the deal. I only lent you my body. You lent me your dream.”
In Andrew Niccol’s directorial debut we are invited to imagine a world where humans are categorized according to their genetic make-up. In this world, genetic engineering is not only a possibility, but a very common thing. Society now classifies people according to their DNA, and social classes are determined by it. It is not a future too hard to envision considering over history we have categorized people according to the color of their skin, their race, or their gender. Niccol creates an interesting sci-fi premise by using this sort of allegory of our society and combining it with some action and romance. I have yet to see Niccol’s Lord of War, but from what I’ve seen his debut film has been his best. He had an interesting cast to work with as well. Ethan Hawke plays the lead role, Vincent Freeman, who was born with inferior genes and therefore not expected to live long. He must settle for unimportant jobs, and no matter how hard he tries, he is unable to achieve his dream of traveling to space. Those jobs are only available for humans with superior DNA. Jude Law plays a supporting role as Jerome Murrow, a man born with perfect genes, but after suffering an accident he is left paraplegic. Vincent assumes Jerome’s identity and by deceiving DNA testings he is able to follow his dream and is assigned on a space mission. It’s an engaging premise despite some flaws, but it is much more intelligent than some recent sci-fi Niccol films.
Ethan Hawke gives a solid performance, but he doesn’t really stand out here like he has in some of his other films. The best thing about Gattaca is its sci-fi futuristic premise which manages to thrill and keep the audience in suspense. Jude Law doesn’t add much to the story, but he is always an interesting presence. Uma Thurman plays Hawke’s love interest and gives the plot a romantic side. Her chemistry with Hawke is what makes the film emotionally engaging, because without her Vincent isn’t really engaging on his own. The film succeeds thanks to its strong narrative (written by Niccol himself) and the way it manages to adapt current prejudices in society to a future we don’t want to look forward to. It gets its point across of cautioning us and delivering meaning in a similar way that classic fairy tales did when our mothers read us the stories when we were kids. It has become a classic for some over the years. It’s not among my favorite films, but it was an enjoyable ride and i’m glad I finally got around to watching it.