In a future where a person's genetics determine their life's direction,
a genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one.
Written and Directed by Andrew Niccol
Starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Alan Arkin,
Gore Vidal, Loren Dean, Xander Berkeley, Ernest Borgnine,
Tony Shalhoub, Jayne Brook, Elias Koteas
Oscar Nominations - Best Art Direction
Gattaca has a brilliant premise, but I believe its downfall is its decision to focus entirely on the character of Vincent Freeman. The film introduces a futuristic society built on the merit of scientific breakthrough, where the only thing that matters is a person's superior genetics. Racial and religious prejudice have been eradicated in favor of a genetic hierarchy that everybody willingly submits to. The creation of this world and the people who control it are never even alluded to. Instead, we get to follow a man born naturally as he works his way up the societal ladder illegally so he can be an astronaut. Cool premise, wrong focus.
I have never really been sold on Ethan Hawke as a leading man. He's surprised me a handful of times but most of the time he's blander than day old wheat toast. Such is the case with Gattaca, where he tries to be unique and likable but comes across as selfish and entitled. He's completely upstaged by Uma Thurman and Jude Law, who both do a great job. I don't know why Andrew Niccol bothered casting Alan Arkin, Ernest Borgnine, and Tony Shalhoub in such small roles, as all three are criminally underused.
The world of Gattaca is so thought-provoking and raises so many questions, but we never get to see it on a broader scale. The film left me wanting more because I never got to see the side of the story that I wanted to see. I wanted to like it, but it never reaches a high enough point to be considered enjoyable. It just peters out at tolerable.