Movie Review: Gattaca


“I was never more certain of how far I was away I was from my goal than when I was standing right beside it”

I love the old Columbia logo. Something about the sound and the visual are just so iconic to me and spark a weird sense of nostalgia that I can’t explain.

I guess it’s just the literary nerd in me but I like movies which open with a quote of some kind. The more obscure the better in my opinion. Gattaca does this quite well. It opens with a poignant biblical quote from Ecclesiastes 7:13 “consider god’s handiwork who can straighten what he hath made crooked?” And another by Willard Gaylin “I not only think that we will tamper with Mother Nature, I think she wants us to” both quotes talk about the central issues of the movie.About man tampering with the complexities of nature and how that might be the future.

The movie makes use of colour to demonstrate one of the key themes. There are a lot of muted tones, especially in the opening credits were greeted by cold blues which set the tone for the cold, clinical world to which we are being introduced.

We see a drawn out sequence of shots involving skin, hair and nail samples which serves to show the focus this movie places on DNA as well as showing the lengths the main character will go to make himself clean and acceptable…dare I say valid.

Something I liked about the movie was the choice to not go with a specific date. Firstly because when movies do make the choice to set it in the far off year of 2012 it becomes increasingly laughable as to how much their expectations are off and also the movie ceases to be a possibility once we reach that date. And especially in a movie such as this which acts as a cautionary tale about man’s hubris it loses some of its power when we’re already passed that date. So yeah I liked that choice to date it just as much as the not too distant future.

One thing that bothered me. Why isn’t Uma Thurman killing Bill in this movie?

Something very real and honest about this movie is its unrelenting presentation of these tests of our identity. We live in a society shaken by acts of terrorism and this has resulted in tighter and tighter restrictions as well as constant demands to verify who we are. This movie makes it just a casual aspect of the movie some daily ritual alongside eating breakfast and brushing your teeth. It shows the invasiveness of society and how it’s hard to be anything other than what society wants or expects you to be.

Just like communism, genetic engineering sounds like a good idea in practice. But we are irresponsible as a species and eugenics is the ideal way to create a new underclass who are not only perceived to be inferior but genetically are as well. However perhaps sadder still the underclass have to live with the knowledge of every imperfection their body has and barring an act of God. They know the approximate time and cause of their death.

Perhaps the most devastating and overlooked moment in the entire movie, at least in my opinion was how when Vincent was born his father opted not to call him Anton (after himself) as he had planned because he was disappointed in his the predictions for his future as stated by the Doctor. The honour of being named after daddy went to the second born and Vincent younger and more genetically perfect brother.

It amazes me what they can do in this film. They have the technology to rule out obesity, inclinations towards violence and heart disease and considering all the people who we meet who are in my opinion institutionalised in the most literal sense of the word they can also eradicate every shred of fun in a person.

Speaking of which Vincent works for a company in the business of sending rockets into space. I find it impossible to believe they don’t look up for every single one. A rocket going into space is the ideal visual of exploration and freedom and wonder and yet these people don’t look up…ever?

The best and most poignant line in the whole movie goes to “by the time we were playing at blood brothers I understood there was something very different flowing through my veins…and I’d need an awful lot more than a drop If I was going to get anywhere” I think it’s good because it sums up the primary conflict incredibly well and does so in such a…cutting fashion.

One of the better scenes in the movie are the games of a chicken between Anton and Vincent as both brothers swam as far from the shore as they could and racing all the while. I think it’s a very honest portrayal of the relationship between brothers particularly when one is the favourite. Both constantly competing to prove which is better. What’s different in their dynamic is that usual the older brother is favoured but I guess those old fashioned things go out the window when one of your children is genetically engineered to be perfect.

Also while I’m on the subject swimming plays in important part in this movie thematically. Even Jerome was an Olympic silver medallist swimmer.

Vincent was born with 1 chance in a hundred of developing a heart condition. If the odds were that high that I was going to die then I’d do everything I could with the time that I had.

I was thinking some people might feel like it was pointless trying if they knew they were going to die at an early age but I admire Vincent’s struggle and how he finally won. He beat his brother because he just kept going. It proves that determination and desire are more powerful than bigger muscles or a better working heart. If you can push yourself even when you’re exhausted then you might just come out the other side a winner. This is summed up best by the quote:  “It was the one moment that my brother was not a strong as he believed and I was not as weak”

It’s not exactly a high possibility of developing a fatal heart condition but I know how it feels to be held up by bad genes. I have ADHD and this has been a thorn in my side for as long as I can remember. Constantly limiting my capabilities and tempering my dreams. But much like Vincent when I felt that I just wasn’t good enough to succeed I’ve pushed through. I’ve done my best to make my weaknesses negligible when compared to what I’m capable of doing.

I can never make up my mind about Jude Law. On one hand he’s not a bad actor but on the other I could only think of a few films of his that I liked. A.I Artificial Intelligence, Alfie and Sherlock Holmes to name a few. I also thought I liked him in Wimbledon but that turned out to be Paul Bettany. But he was genuinely amazing in this film. A truly exceptional supporting actor.

Speaking of Jude Law I kept getting the feeling from his petulant and morose face and digs at Vincent’s expense that he would sell him out in the end but his desperate race to the upstairs apartment when the detective comes calling really shows how much he cares.

I was glad to find out about how Jerome had his ‘accident’ it added a layer of self loathing to his character and explains his actions later in the movie.

The scenes of Vincent (Ethan Hawke) sloughing off his excess skin are important because it shows the lengths to which he is willing to go to limit the exposure of his real self. Every single day he strips away part of himself in pursuit of his dream.

And while we’re on that topic there was something so sad about the scene on the beach where Vicente scrubs himself raw, naked and alone in the morning light desperately clinging to routine and a need to fit in.

As I mentioned earlier for some reason swimming is important to the story and later in the movie they use this to suggest the real identity of the detective.

Later they really hammer home the swimming thing. We have the two brothers, both of whom are struggling with issues and they decide to resolve it by….you guessed it swimming.  

I keep thinking about the arrogance of Anton and how much he judged himself by his brothers failure. It nearly crushed his shallow little ego that Vincent was able to beat him. And Vincent finally revealed how he was able to do it. He never saved anything for the swim back. He gave it everything just to reach his goal. That message was supported in the final moments when he finally achieves that goal. He succeeded because he never held anything back or kept any reserves.

I’m certainly glad that I learned that right handed men don’t hold their junk with their left hand. But despite that knowledge tainting it one of the final scenes is all the more touching because when Vincent thinks the jig is up he is surprised by the helpful doctor who overlooks his results and fixes the machine.

The music during the final moments is beautiful. Vincent walking towards his destiny, leaving earth a ‘freeman’ finally having achieved his lifelong goal and his ladder that got him to the stars takes his own life his only comfort a silver medal. I might be biased but i honestly think this film deserves the rating of 9/10.


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