I first watched GATTACA about fifteen years ago on cable, presented in the standard definition full frame aspect ratio. My memory of it was that I thought it was well made but I could understand how the film had not become a more mainstream, indelible sci-fi classic. After witnessing the new 4K transfer from Sony, my opinion on that has drastically changed.
The film grabs you instantly with two intriguing quotes that deal with the subject of trying to alter what is innate, or determined by “God”. It’s a powerful and mysterious setup which precedes our introduction to a version of the future where people’s gene’s scientifically determine their entire potential in life. In a way, the film is an updated and more personal version of BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley, which dealt with the totalitarianism ideology that perpetuated genetic engineering as a form of control on the masses.
Ethan Hawke plays Vincent, a child who was born with several negative genetic predispositions that prevent him from having the necessary requirements to be approved for his life long dream of traveling into space. Vincent works as a janitor for a space travel company which handles the flights, all the while assuming the identity of another man named Jerome. Jerome was an olympic athlete and genetically ideal, but an accident left him wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. The bitter and cynical Jerome is able to sell various elements of his DNA to Vincent - blood, skin, hair, urine - so that Vincent can trick the screening systems in place into thinking he is genetically approved to make the trip.
A murder of one of the employees at the company propels the rest of the story into the noir thriller genre. Uma Thurman gives off classic femme fatale vibes playing a co-worker and eventual love interest to Vincent, all the while her character is actually the anti-femme fatale; caring, supportive and aiding Vincent in his deceptive practices.
This was Jude Law’s film debut playing "Jerome" and he nearly steals the entire movie. You can see he was destined for stardom. There’s also some wonderful supporting turns from big names like Gore Vidal, Ernest Borgnine, Maya Rudolph and Dean Norris (from BREAKING BAD fame).
The new 4K transfer is gorgeous. The film was shot in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio and has a sleek aesthetic and the colors are very vibrant. The sound is crisp and it features a really gorgeous and emotional score from British composter Michael Nyman. I’m still humming the main theme. The new set features a blu ray version which contained all of the special features from the older disc release. The one that stood at the most was a deleted epilogue scene that shows various notable figures of achievement in world history and the genetic flaw that would have prevented them from achieving greatness if they had lived in this fictional world. I never knew that Albert Einstein was dyslexic.
Although GATTACA was marketed as a sci-fi thriller I see it as something much deeper, an inspiring film about overcoming adversity in the face of impossible odds. It delivers a universally personal story set against a well realized dystopian version of the future.
I now consider this film one of the greatest science fiction films ever made and it will undoubtedly be on my top 10 4K releases of the year. If you’ve never seen the film before I strongly urge you to pick it up on 4K. You’ll be in for a real treat. You can purchase it on Amazon Here.