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Posted by martinteller on April 16, 2013

In the “not so distant future”, Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) is a rarity.  He is a “de-gene-rate”… that is to say, his parents threw the dice and conceived him with no genetic engineering.  The second Vincent is born, they’re told all of his likely shortcomings, including the 99% chance that he’ll die of heart failure by age 30.  They have another child, Anton, and this time they do it the proper way.  All his life, Vincent will live in his younger brother’s shadow, cursed with his “faith-born” DNA.  He dreams of going into space, but with his genetic profile knows he’d never be approved.  Then a solution comes to him in the form of Jerome Morrow (Jude Law): a genetically perfect individual, crippled by an accident.  They strike a deal and through elaborate deception, Vincent now lives as Jerome, passing off Jerome’s genetic material as his own.  But just as Vincent is about to realize his dream, a murder investigation at Gattaca — the aeronautical center — threatens to unmask him.  And with Vincent developing a romantic interest in co-worker Irene (Uma Thurman), the threat is doubled.

Today was the shittiest day I’ve had in quite a long time, so it was an especially welcome break to immerse myself in a movie for a couple of hours.  So maybe I liked this film more than I would have under optimal circumstances.  Or maybe it’s just a pretty good flick.  Like Blade Runner, it mixes a science fiction premise with a noir-ish thriller, and explores questions of identity along the way.  Although the questions here are more about genetic predetermination, examining the idea of whether you can or cannot transcend your supposedly “hard-coded” abilities.

It’s fairly interesting stuff, but isn’t really the most compelling sci-fi premise to me.  People have been wringing their hands over genetic manipulation for decades, and I’m not so sure that society is actually headed that way.  But, except for the abundance of expository monologue at the beginning to set up the world, it’s handled pretty well.  I was more engaged with the suspense aspect of the film, with the fun old-school detective played by Alan Arkin, and Hawke’s and Law’s various clever machinations for getting around the system.

Neither Law, Hawke or Thurman rank among my favorite actors but I don’t have a problem with any of them, and all carry themselves well enough here.  Law stands out the most.  I can envision more interesting performances in the other two leads, but again, I don’t have any big complaints.  On the technical front I don’t have any beefs either.  There aren’t a whole lot of dazzling shots, but they’re composed competently and edited in a fashion that keeps momentum going.

It got my mind off my troubles for a while, and that’s good enough for me.  Rating: Very Good (81)


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