Movie #105 2021: Gattaca (1997)

Every year I write a ‘to watch’ list in my trusty Moleskine®, and every year some films seem to still be on the list. This is one of those films. I can’t even explain to you how long Gattaca has been on my watch list for. It must have been at least ten years. Alas, I’m terrible with actually utilising watchlists and instead keep choosing any old shit over the films that have been on my mind for years. (Yesterday, for instance, I chose to rewatch Captain America: The First Avenger and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 instead of striking anything new off the inventory. Oops.)

Due to the ongoing (although almost concluded) lockdown in England however, I finally had some spare time to squeeze this one in! Honestly, I never thought it was going to happen. I’m genuinely so surprised. Maybe I get so worried that films that have been on my watch list for so long will let me down in the end, so lets see if that was the case here.

Gattaca has quite a unique and complex premise at its forefront that is rooted in classic science fiction storytelling. It’s set in a future society in which babies are rarely conceived and born via natural means, and instead, “designer babies” and readable DNA dominate the planet. Ethan Hawke plays Vincent, who was born with a condition that means he will never be able to travel to space and will likely die by the age of thirty – this is something that doctors were able to determine as soon as he was born, thanks to advancements in medical technology. Vincent doesn’t give up easily however, and finds himself trading identities with a much healthier man (Jude Law) in order to infiltrate the GATTACA space programme.

It’s honestly scary how this cerebral science fiction concept has come so close to today’s reality. Designer babies? Advanced DNA testing? Life imitating art, for sure. So many of these hokey fictional science films from yesteryear look completely ridiculous in this day and age (flying cars, living on Mars, etc), but not Gattaca. Okay, it’s not completely true to modern life, but they hit the nail on the head in some respects.

You’d think that the visuals would be the stand out in a film about futuristic space expeditions. Whilst the imagery does hold up quite well in 2021, Michael Nyman’s score in this movie is an underrated masterpiece. It ebbs and flows to match the action on screen, going from booming and dynamic to sensitive and understated within seconds. Though the concept of the narrative is unique and interesting, it’s Nyman’s work that will hit you hardest.

I won’t just gloss over the look of the film though, because that too deserves a commendation. Aesthetically, Gattaca is sleek, shiny, but never over-manufactured, despite what the promotional images (like those above) would have you believe. It still has this realistic undertone to its glossy sheen, unlike many other sci-fi romps of a similar type. Some of the shots are like moving pieces of art and it has no right to be as beautiful as it is. Nice work, Andrew Niccol

Gattaca isn’t perfect. There are minor aspects to this movie that don’t quite hold up in today’s modern film climate in regards to special effects, but it’s not unwatchable for a second. Though personally I’d have upped the pace here and there (cutting out the gratuitous sex scene wouldn’t have gone amiss), Gattaca is a thoroughly enjoyable and original motion picture.

Overall, it didn’t let me down! Maybe I should take another look at that recurring annual watchlist…

Gattaca is available to stream on Sky Cinema and Now TV in the UK.

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