Monday, May 1, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #32: "Gattaca" (1997)

Movie Stats:
Released 1997 (Canada)
American, in English
Director - Andrew Niccol
Stars - Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, and many others

Plot Summary:
In the not so distant future where genetically modifying embryos is the norm & natural-birth people are considered second-class, non-modified Vincent Freeman (Hawke) chases his dream of going into space by borrowing the identity of a modified man, Jerome Morrow (Law). A murder at his place of business, Gattaca, puts his mission in jeopardy. Thurman co-stars as Irene Cassini, Vincent’s co-worker & love interest.

Blue language; minor violence; minor gore; implied sexy times; brief male nudity (butt only).

Bad Stuff:
It has some of those editorial inconsistencies that stick out to & bug me. For example, in one scene Irene arrives at Jerome’s apartment in the car of a police detective. Then the detective leaves without her. How does she get back to work? I spent five minutes of the film wondering about that.

It’s a little slow.

Good Stuff:
Jude Law is so good in this. It was one of those moments when I thought to myself, “Oh yeah, now I remember why he was a thing back in the day.” The other actors are good too, but Law really stands out. He commands the screen.

I like the mix between futurism, conservative 1950s vibe, and 1940s film noir. It’s weird in a good way. Kind of funny how frequently sci fi is mixed with film noir.

It’s a really well crafted story. While there’s no mystery for the viewers (okay, I guess there’s a small one), it’s fun to watch the detectives unravel their mystery. Vincent thinks of everything in his quest to portray Jerome, but the detectives think of those things too. It makes for a lot of delicious tension. Will Vincent get to go on his space mission or won’t he?

The Verdict:
I’d forgotten how good this film is. Whenever someone has mentioned it in the 15 or so years since I first saw it, I’d say, “That’s a great film!” And while I believed it, I can’t say that I remembered much about it. Fortunately, my belief was rooted in fact. It really is quite good, so good that I can’t find much in it to pick apart. Definitely, the slow pace is the worst of it, but I find that in all film noir, whether it’s sci fi-themed or not. It just seems to be a characteristic of the genre. Other than that, anything negative I have to say is being a little petty. This is a really solid, well-written, well-acted, visually interesting movie.

I give it 4.75 stars.

Random Fun Fact: Improbably, Ernest Borgnine has featured in THREE of my four movie projects. Best Picture - Marty; AFI Top 100 - The Wild Bunch; Sci Fi Top 100 - Gattaca.


Patricia said...

I watched this in the theater (maybe the one in Quincy?) with college boyfriend John. (Although by then we were both post-college). We didn't like it, finding it too overly dramatic.

I've wondered, off an on over the years, if I would have a different opinion with a re-watch. College boyfriend John tended to be pretty judgmental and poo-poo popular fiction.

Between your glowing review and the high ranking on the Sci-fi list, I might take another look at this film.

A lot of the visuals are still clearly in my head after 20 years, so that's saying something.

balyien said...

Hmm, in the grand scheme of things, I wouldn't say that I consider this film overly dramatic. I've certainly found that mood/circumstances/the companion you watch it with can have a big impact on one's enjoyment of a film. These days, I usually try to give a film a second chance, unless I really loathed it. Sometimes, I'm like, "Nope, this film isn't for me" but most times I end up liking it better than I thought I would.