While some of our throwbacks for Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column dedicated the great science fiction of the past, are ridiculous and will never come to pass (‘The Yesterday Machine,’ for example), there are some science fictions that seems closer to us than others, and every year it feels like we are steadily marching toward the world of ‘Gattaca.’
The premise of ‘Gattaca’ is that as we are able to sequence and manipulate DNA, our society starts to create an entirely new form of discrimination: genetic discrimination. The world is ordered between the different level of “valids”, and “in-valids”, who are people born with genetic disorders.
The story revolves around Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), a man born outside of this eugenics program. Vincent dreams of working in space, but is limited by his genetics, which suggest that he will die at the age of thirty. Despite his intelligence, he is forced to work as a lower class janitor, until is presented with a chance to become a “borrowed ladder”, or rather, someone who poses as a genetically superior specimen. Enter Eugene (Jude Law), a former champion swimmer who was paralyzed in a car accident. In order to make money to survive, he sells everything to Vincent, from hair to urine, so no one will catch on to Vincent’s ruse (they routinely do DNA checks everywhere to make sure that everyone belongs in specific places). Vincent then goes to work for the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation, and works on his dream of going into space, which is going just perfectly until a man is murdered in his building.
When the cops swipe for DNA, they find one of Vincent’s eyelashes at the scene (despite the fact that Vincent vigorously scrubs himself of all genetic material such as dry skin every day), and a week before his scheduled flight he finds that his real self is under suspicion for murder. Making the situation worse is the detective investigating the crime is Vincent’s own brother, who would instantly recognize that Vincent is not in fact Eugene.
‘Gattaca’ at first seems like a dry movie about the dangers of genetic manipulation, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s a psychological thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen to Vincent, and an adept drama that deals with human emotion in this brave new world of genetics. Every character is very real despite the sci-fi setting, and their interactions create just as gripping of a story as the man-on-the-run bit of action. Pad that out with a stellar cast, which includes Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, and Jude Law to name only just a few, and you have a great film that stands the test of time.
If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for?