Plot: What’s it about?
Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) has always dreamed of going into space, even back when he was a young child. But the odds are very much against that, as Vincent is prone to heart problems, genetic flaws, and perhaps even a premature death. His brother Anton however is not, since he was engineered to avoid those problems, therefore making his life’s path an easier one, while Vincent struggles to even find honest work. The world has become discriminate against “natural” citizens and chooses to give the breaks to those created with flawless genetics, even if they’re not the best people for the tasks. But he has refused to give up and when he turns to underground sources, he discovers a remote chance exists. He can assume the identity of Jerome (Jude Law), a genetic marvel who was crippled in an accident, but no one is aware of this and he has remained in hiding. The process will be harsh, extreme, and constant, but if Vincent wishes to live his dream, this is the sole path to take…
This film was never given much hype or exposure, which is a true shame, as it is a beautiful, very memorable motion picture. Gattaca has a story that makes you think, visuals that you could get lost in, performances that keep you interested, and direction that is so tight, not a single second is wasted on screen. This all combines to create a compelling & poetic movie that resonates long after the credits have rolled, a rare thing in modern cinema. The pace remains slow, but never drags in the least and this allows the details to unfold in a proper manner, no rush is applied at any point and that ensures the emotional impact is intact. But as interesting as the story is, you can sometimes just drift off into the visuals, which reinforces how strenuous it is for our main character, who could lose it all, should his mind wander too much. It is hard to believe this was made for as little money as it was too, since it looks and feels like a big budget picture. If you’re looking for a powerful, well-produced movie that will do more than entertain you for ninety minutes, give Gattaca a spin and of course, this Superbit edition is the best venue to do so with.
I’ve enjoyed several of Ethan Hawke’s turns, but without a shadow of a doubt, this stands as his finest performance. I admit that I was skeptical the first time I viewed Gattaca, but Hawke is tremendous and nails this role in all respects. Yes, he has some incredible material to work from, but I think a lot of the role’s success is also to do his approach. He never overplays the part and while he could do so at times, he holds back and that enhances the character tenfold, I think. The intense nature of the role makes it tempting to see him go over the top, but his natural, restrained vision remains firm, just as it should. Other films with Hawke include Snow Falling on Cedars, Alive, Reality Bites, Mystery Date, White Fang, and Before Sunrise. The cast also includes Jude Law (Immortality, Enemy at the Gates), Uma Thurman (Beautiful Girls, The Avengers), and Xander Berkeley (Shanghai Noon, A Few Good Men).
Video: How’s it look?
The 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer for Gattaca is fairly good, though probably not as good as I would have hoped. The movie is nearly twenty years old and has a slick, polished look that just screams high definition. I found most of the scenes to be very clean and clear with an improved level of detail. The movie is fairly dark, however, and as such we get a some scenes with a fair amount of noise in the backgrounds. Some of the sterile backgrounds have a tiny bit of movement in them and while grain is prevalent, almost annoyingly so in a few scenes, it’s a sign of the age of the film. Having said that, it’s not all bad but it shows how far the Blu-ray technology has come in just a short amount of time.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Gattaca sports a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack which I found rather robust at times and surprisingly lacking in other key points in the movie. Its a strong soundtrack, but nothing too over the top. Dialogue and vocals seemed to be clear and during some of the more action-oriented scenes, the surrounds really came into play. Gattaca has never really had a superb soundtrack, but the uncompressed Dolby track does bump it up a notch or two. It’s a slightly nuanced more organic feeling aura than a “bang and blast” action film. It’s fitting for the theme of the movie, for sure, but it’s nothing that will leave an impression on you.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Though this Blu-ray is several years old now, it did contain some new features that weren’t on the previous DVD releases.
- Welcome to Gattaca – One of the new features for this Blu-ray focuses on the production design of the film with interviews from Law, Thurman and Hawke. It’s not a revelation, but does show how precise some of the things in the film are and we’re treated to some behind the scenes footage.
- Do Not Alter – Narrated by Gore Vidal (who also has a small role in the film), this takes a look at DNA sequencing and genetics as a whole. It’s not totally irrelevant either as we’ve seen that the theme of this film is pretty topical. It’s an interesting look and somewhat of a crash course in genetics.
- Deleted Scenes – Half a dozen deleted scenes are shown here in less than stellar quality. Still, it’s nice to have these and I’m of the mindset that more than a few should have been included in the final cut.
- Substance Test Outtake – Brief and too the point, I’ll leave my commentary behind.
- Original Featurette – Yes, it’s actually entitled “Original Featurette” as this appeared on the DVD from several years ago. This, sadly, has become the standard for most of the newer “Making of…” features found on Blu-ray’s. It’s just a bunch of talking heads, back patting and irrelevant stuff that really don’t add anything to the movie or the disc. Still, it’s better to have than not. I guess.
- Previews – Several now dated films and television shows are previewed here: The Water Horse, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Damages: Season One, The Company, and Dragon Wars.
The Bottom Line
Gattaca was a great movie-watching experience when I saw it in theaters back in 1997. Nearly two decades later it’s one I still watch on an annual basis. The theme of the film is timeless and even inspirational after all of my viewings. While the Blu-ray lacks that razor sharp definition that’s so associated with newer films, it’s passable and sports just enough extras to deserve a place on your shelf. This movie qualifies as: valid.