WRITER Jason Jules
Released in 1997, Gattaca is an epic tale written and directed by Andrew Niccol. Like any great sci-fi narrative it takes aspects of the present-day and paints a future based on an extreme conclusion. Genetic engineering, social discrimination and state/corporate control brings us to a time and place where in-valids are people born naturally and valids are those perfected by genetic enhancement. Here DNA determines social status. Valids are the superior of the two; they are less vulnerable to disease, have longer life expectancy, a higher IQ – you name it. Inevitably, in-valids, the runts in society’s litter, are a ready-made service class despite a law against such discrimination. The story follows Vincent (Ethan Hawke) who, although being born in-valid, has hopes of joining the best of the DNA elite as an astronaut. In order to do so he assumes the identity of a valid, Jerome (Jude Law) – a former swimmer, paralysed from the waist down after a car accident. Vincent adopts Jerome’s identity and goes through a strict daily regime to conceal his own. It’s with Jerome’s DNA profile that Vincent gains admission to Gattaca, the aerospace corporation he hopes will allow him to go on a manned spaceflight. Against a stylish modernist backdrop the story unfolds. The love interest is Irene – an in-valid who Vincent meets at the corporation, played by Uma Thurman. The plot twists are many, and the film’s narrative tension is amped up by a murder investigation which takes place in Gattaca and threatens the discovery of Vincent’s true identity. But it’s the intricate exploration of themes such as individual destiny, the nature/nurture debate, genetic engineering and social discrimination that really trigger the imagination. The drama is also made all the more compelling by Michael Nyman’s ever-present soundtrack and the Oscar-nominated set design and art direction.