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GATTACA ($30) is a stylish and intriguing cautionary tale about a future where only human beings that are optimized by genetic engineering have a place in society. Ethan Hawke stars as Vincent, a young man who was conceived by his parents in the old fashioned way. Without genetic enhancements, Vincent finds himself living in a world where he is at a disadvantage his entire life. As he grows into adulthood, Vincent dreams of going into outer space, but discovers that his genetic make up only qualifies him for a job as a lowly maintenance worker at the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation.

With no other option available, Vincent is forced into an elaborate masquerade where he borrows the identity of a genetic superior who has fallen on hard times. Vincent assumes the identity of Jerome and is able to get a job that will allow him to travel to the stars. Unfortunately, a murder takes place at Gattaca and everyone falls under tighter scrutiny than ever before. As the police investigate, it becomes harder and harder for Vincent to continue his elaborate charade. Ethan Hawke is quite good as Vincent/Jerome; his Hollywood good looks give Hawke credibility as someone pretending to be the genetic ideal.

Speaking of genetic ideals, Uma Thurman certainly fills that category. Thurman portrays Irene Cassini, a beautiful young woman employed at Gattaca whom "Jerome" begins having an affair with just as his world starts to crumble. Gore Vidal gives a very interesting performance as "Jerome’s" project supervisor. Alan Arkin never disappoints; his portrayal of the tenacious police investigator is right on the money. The cast of GATTACA also features Xander Berkeley, Jayne Brook, Elias Koteas, Elizabeth Dennehy, Blair Underwood, Jude Law, Tony Shalhoub and Ernest Borgnine. Andrew Niccol’s screenplay and direction have a strong emotional undercurrent, which contrasts with the film’s cold, sterile vision of the future. As most futurist films do, GATTACA has a stylized look. However, I do want to mention Jan Roelfs impressive production designs that serve to heighten the film’s sumptuous visuals.

Columbia TriStar Home Video offers GATTACA in both wide screen and full frame presentations of opposite sides of the DVD. The full frame version offers acceptable image quality, however it wrecks the flow of the film, by ruining the visuals. The wide screen presentation includes the anamorphic enhancement and restores almost all of the film’s 2.35:1 theatrical framing. The transfer is exquisite and flawlessly reproduces cinematographer Slawomir Idziak’s impressive work on the film. Digital compression artifacts were seldom apparent on this DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has an excellent mix, which highlights the subtle abilities of the format. GATTACA is intellectual science fiction, without the need for explosions or other heavy sound effects. The track creates the perfect atmosphere for GATTACA, with most of the track’s directional effects serving to complement the film’s environment. Other soundtrack options include a matrixed Dolby Surround soundtrack, plus French and Spanish Language tracks. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

In addition to the usual scene and language selections, the interactive menus give one access to the DVD’s special features. The special features include a theatrical trailer, a featurette, deleted scenes, plus production stills and artwork.

GATTACA is an engaging and beautiful looking science fiction film that genre fans are certain to enjoy. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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