Thursday, May 15, 2014

Gattaca ★★★1/2

    Can you imagine a world where significant diseases and mental deficiencies are eliminated before you are even born? A world in which imperfection is virtually non-existent? This is the idea spawned from the 1997 science fiction film entitled "Gattaca." Although it is a romanticized notion of human nature, it is our flaws that make us who we are. If everyone was bred to perfection, then life would almost certainly become very uninteresting.

    In the not so distant future, Vincent Freeman is born from the hands of God; therefore, there was no manipulation of mental or physical performance before birth. This leads Vincent to be susceptible to numerous health conditions, which can be diagnosed and predicted seconds after birth. Vincent's parents are told that he will live approximately 30.2 years and that he will indisputably suffer from heart complications.

    This will underline the meaning of Vincent's life from childhood to adulthood.

    Daring not to make the same mistake with a second child, Vincent's parents opt for the genetic security for their next son, Anton. This ultimately leads to feelings of neglect and disdain on behalf of Vincent. The two brothers grow up challenging one another, most notably to games of chicken, which leads to the boys swimming out as far as they can before one gives up. As a grown adult, Vincent dreams of leaving the atmosphere of Earth and flying among the stars. He will not be denied this and strives to overcome the genetic discrimination that would oppose this opportunity.

    The lead role of Vincent is given to Ethan Hawke. Although Hawke doesn't have the most prestigious résumé, he shines in this portrayal of a man who will overcome any obstacle, even genetic defect, to achieve his dreams. Hawke provides sensational voiceover work for multiple scenes, including a flashback that sets the tone for the entire film. Vincent is a very intelligent and cunning individual, and Hawke genuinely exhibits these qualities with relative ease.

    After leaving home and embarking on life's journey on his lonesome, Vincent finds himself working as a janitorial employee, which is common for humans born of natural conception. He ultimately finds himself cleaning windows and buffing floors at Gattaca, a space flight corporation, and realizes just how far he actually is from obtaining his goal although he is physically as close as he can be. To aid his quest in becoming a flight navigator, Vincent sets himself up to become a "borrowed ladder," which essentially steals the identity of a genetically enhanced individual to avoid discrimination.

    The man whose identity Vincent will be taking is that of Jerome Murrow, who was a competing swimmer until an accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. Jerome is perfectly content with giving up his name and bodily fluids, as long as Vincent provides him with alcohol and the lifestyle he is accustomed to. A rigorous daily routine of providing blood (and occasionally urine samples) to Gattaca, along with scrubbing off excess skin and hair, commences and everything goes as planned until a murder necessitates a thorough investigation of all employees. Vincent will find himself in a game of cat and mouse, which, ultimately, will bring Vincent face to face with his past and his future.

    Other notable performances include those of Jude Law and Uma Thurman. Law is the real Jerome Murrow, who is equipped with every benefit that human nature or genetic manipulation can provide. At first, Murrow begrudgingly participates in this scheme for the financial benefit; however, he warms up to the idea and eventually relishes in Vincent's successes. Law was a perfect cast for this role and helps to relieve the anxiety of our protagonist. Thurman provides the romantic outlet for Vincent in the form of Irene Cassini. Despite the fact that Irene was born of "valid" DNA, she also suffers from heart maladies. This reduces her to a desk position at Gattaca as she gains the admiration of Vincent, who is arguably the most talented navigator.

    This is not your stereotypical science fiction film. There are no alien life forms or preposterous special effects. It is a well-crafted exhibition of thought provoking content and ideas, some of which do not seem so far-fetched with the rapid evolution of technology in the twenty-first century and beyond. Even though pre-birth genetic enhancement is seemingly impractical, if given the chance, I am undoubtedly sure that mankind would foam at the mouth of such a thought. (Why live in a world of uncertainty when your very best can be ensured from conception?)

    "Gattaca" is a film filled with symbolism and intrigue. It relinquishes the atmosphere of a thriller while enticing us with its simple, yet futuristic environment. A beautiful score accompanies this film and the opening scene, which outlines the daily routine of Vincent preparing himself for a day at the office. Discrimination is a vice that many of us live with every day; however, when being birthed naturally warrants prejudice, then we have truly lost the meaning of life and the delight of its defining moments. You know, limitation can be a beautiful thing. If everything came easily, then we would surely lose the nature of our soul.

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