Gattaca (1997)

Published on August 10th, 2011

Alex recommends the 1997 sci-fi movie Gattaca, and talks about Ethan Hawke again.

I’ve been on a bit of an Ethan Hawke kick recently, inasmuch as somebody can actually be on an ‘Ethan Hawke kick.’ I haven’t grown a half-goatee, nor have I suddenly started to appear strung out constantly; I’ve just been watching a lot of movies that Ethan Hawke is in. In the last couple of weeks I have watched Before Sunrise & Sunset multiple times, Brooklyn’s Finest, the first half of Training Day, and that version of Hamlet where Bill Murray plays Polonious. I even currently have Reality Bites in my download queue, despite kind of hating that movie. I may not think Ethan Hawke is a particularly good actor (although he has a few stellar performances), but he is always engaging. Maybe it’s because Hawke never really grew out of his Reality Bites character: he appears to take everything extremely seriously at all times, but always seems to understand that doing so is kind of ridiculous. Or maybe I just like him because Gattaca is one of my favourite movies.

I like science-fiction movies quite a bit, but I tend to prefer those that favour ideas over action. It’s the Star Wars/Blade Runner thing: I like Star Wars, but on any given day, I would rather watch Blade Runner because there’s just more there to think about. Gattaca is more Blade Runner than it is Star Wars, and the 1997 Andrew Niccol film deals mostly with eugenics, or genetic enhancement. The film takes place in a future where births are now controlled to give each newborn the best possible life, and a baby’s life expectancy is now determined immediately after the birth. Of course, there are exceptions. Vincent Freeman (played by Hawke) is born naturally, with a heart defect and a life expectancy of 30.2 years, causing his parents to lose their faith in natural birth. Vincent constantly feels like an outcast once his brother Anton is born with all the genetic advantages of other modern children, and the film follows Vincent’s desire to become an astronaut, despite not being physically qualified to do so.

To say that is all that is in this film is selling it short; Gattaca is an extremely interesting movie about the idea of genetic mutation, and the concept of the human spirit. Hawke is generally good in the movie, and his relationship with Jude Law’s character is one of the more purely entertaining aspects of the movie. The opening sequence is also stellar, and the score throughout the movie is appropriately gorgeous. It’s a satisfying, interesting, engaging movie that I would recommend to pretty much anybody, but one I probably never would have seen it if not for a high school math class.

I swear I watched more movies throughout my adolescence during school hours than I did outside of them. I have no idea why we were watching Gattaca in Grade 9 math class, but I’m happy we did. It clearly wasn’t in the curriculum; it just happened by chance. I likely never would have seen the movie if not for being in that class; it was completely unexpected and untelegraphed. And that also happens to be what I like about Gattaca, and in turn is probably why I like Ethan Hawke. So thanks, Ms. Hamou. Ethan, feel free to send her a thank you card, assuming you’re not too busy looking tired and smoking cigarettes to do so.

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