Monday, 23 May 2016

Gattaca (1997)

I suspect Gattaca was included in this 4-pack as the "bait": the recognisable film you'd be willing to lay out a few bucks for while crossing your fingers the other movies were tolerable.  It definitely feels like the odd film out: it was made 15 years earlier than them, cost many times more, features a much higher-profile cast, and has a much less action-focused storyline.

It is some undisclosed time in the future.  Humanity is making regular forays into the solar system - a mission to Titan (one of Saturn's moons) is about to commence, and there is mention of "a dozen launches a day" - and has mastered command of DNA.  This latter development has transformed society, creating a sharp class divide between those who were genetically engineered in the womb and those who were not.  The former group are (theoretically) free of all genetic imperfections such as heart murmurs, myopia, and so on.  The latter group lack these advantages and, being by definition "inferior", are relegated to purely menial jobs such as being cleaners.

The film follows the tale of one such "in-valid", as they are known.  He's managed to successfully impersonate one of the genetically pure, somehow staying one step ahead of the regular genetic tests run by his employer.  He's now on the verge of embarking on the mission to Titan, transcending the role to which society believes he is limited.  Unfortunately, a murder at his workplace is about to bring renewed attention to him, and jeopardise everything he has fought for.

There's a fair bit to like about Gattaca.  The performances are universally good, and I like the visual style.  I also like the film's costuming and visual design.  It strongly evokes the 1950s and 60s, which I suspect was a very deliberate choice.  The film's valid/in-valid social segregation maps pretty obviously to the racial segregation of that era, after all.

There are also some issues with the film, of course.  The ubiquitous genetic testing seems a bit implausible for one thing: everyone in a company of thousands being tested every week, for instance?  Really?  And here are one or two extremely credibility-stretching reveals later in the film.  So the details of the plot don't really stand up to scrutiny too well, even though the themes the films wants to explore are developed quite successfully.

At the end of the day, your opinion of the film will probably come to rest on whether the details or the themes are more important to you.

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