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This science-fiction thriller is set at a time when we all fall into two categories: Valids and In-Valids, determined by the perfection (or imperfection) of our genetic make up which can be chosen at conception. Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) is an In-Valid, born with a weak heart and other genetic defects. To fulfil his dream of space travel, he outwits the authorities and assumes a Valid identity to join the futuristic Gattaco Corporation to become a navigator. In an elaborate and complex manner, Vincent uses the genetic make-up of a champion swimmer, crippled in an accident, and fools everyone. At Gattaca, Vincent and Irene (Uma Thurman) who has her own accidental genetic defect, become involved in a relationship just before Vincent is due to blast off into space. However, when Gattaca director (Gore Vidal) is murdered, Vincentís eyelash is found at the murder scene and his identity is put under intense scrutiny. But while all the odds are against him, there is no gene for the human spirit, which holds the key to Vincentís fate.

Since Star Wars in 1977, the technological revolution in science-fiction films has seen a deference of Special Effects over Special Affects. Visual wizardry often supersedes story, plot and character, and since the Ď80s, sci-fi has tended to marry with horror (eg: Event Horizon, Starship Troopers, or any instalment of Alien). Gattaca is an outstanding exception to the rule; itís all science, sociology, philosophy, and sex appeal and no action, effects, or horror.

In the near future, genetic manipulation is the new frontier of human evolution. Like Blade Runnerís replicants, Gattacaís genetically enhanced humans are "more human than human" - coded at birth to live longer, healthier lives, have higher IQís, and to be free of disease and disability. These "Valids" take elite positions in society, while the canon fodder of natural births, or "Invalids," make do with menial roles. A job interview is now a simple D.N.A. test; discrimination a science. Vincent (Ethan Hawke), an In-Valid, switches identities with Jerome (Jude Law), an injured Valid, so he can enter the elite space exploration program at Gattaca. Enduring repetitious daily routines to avoid detection, Vincent becomes their prodigy, and falls for the femme fatale, Irene (Uma Thurman). But as a murder investigation threatens to expose Vincent as a fraud, he puts it all on the line to achieve his childhood dream.

Gattaca looks as cool and restrained as its emotionless elites. Its clinical interiors and minimalist designs are further enhanced by DVD viewing. In addition to the superb widescreen transfer, the DVD offers full-screen format, Dolby Surround or Digital 5.1, and 28 scene selections. The extra features menu is healthy, with the trailer, posters, 21 photos in the gallery, and star filmographies. A seven minute documentary plays more like an extended trailer, but includes cast and crew interviews and behind the scenes shots. Rounding out the DVD are six deleted scenes that prove a wise editor is essential, and a single hilarious outtake - the only bit of humour youíll see in Gattaca. One of the most intelligent and provocative sci-fi films ever made, Gattaca is a frosty, dystopian, and unpreachy vision of the ethical challenges that lay ahead. Itís spooky that at the time of writing this review, scientists just completed their 10-year, billion-dollar research into mapping the human genome. Gattacaís fiction just took a giant leap closer to reality, but only time will tell if reality is stranger than fiction.
Shannon J Harvey


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CAST: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Alan Arkin, Gore Vidal, Loren Dean


RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes

DVD Distributor: Columbia TriStar

DVD Release: 1997

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