Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gattaca: A Science Fiction Movie Gem

I was reading the excellent article by Charlie Jane Anders about Andrew Niccol's upcoming new movie Now starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried.  I started thinking about Niccol's career -- he has written (and in some cases directed) some thought-provoking sci-fi films, including The Truman Show with Jim Carey and S1m0ne with Al Pacino.  He also wrote the story for The Terminal starring Tom Hanks and the screenplay for Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage.  His greatest film is still Gattaca, a little gem of a movie that I wish more people would see and appreciate.

Gattaca proves that Hollywood does not need lasergun battles, explosions in the void of space, or endless computer generated imagery to tell a great science fiction story.  With an excellent cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law, the movie is a cautionary tale of a future world in which advances in genetic engineering have created a society of two classes, the seemingly superior "valids" and the natural-birth non-modified in-valids.  Hawke's character Vincent tries to fight genetic discrimination and impersonates a valid in order to be an astronaut, proving that a normal, non-modified human can still overcome obstacles and achieve greatness.

One of the most powerful parts of Gattaca is the subplot with Law's character as a wheelchair-bound valid.  Supporting roles are filled by a great line-up of actors including Ernest Borgnine, Gore Vidal, Alan Arkin, and others.

Gattaca has become a cult favorite.  If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and hunt it down.  Science fiction films don't need to be billion dollar, special-effects-laden epics.  Smaller tales, like Gattaca, can reach enormous heights of imagination, emotion, and drama.

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