I saw Gattaca for the first time last night via Hulu. I remember seeing the television commercials over ten years ago and having no idea then what the movie was about. All I took away from those ads was that it was a science fiction film starring Uma Thurman. I blame poor marketing for my oversight of this remarkable film up until now.
The film features some strong performances, marvelous sets, and a hauntingly beautiful score, but truly it is the rare sort of project driven by its ideas. Simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring, it's a story that rouses the soul and comes close to stirring up more.
In the world of Gattaca, nobody is happy, because genetic engineering has taken chance out of the human equation, reducing individuals to numbers, life to a scripted performance, society to a spiritless machine, where the weak face dead ends before they are even born, the strong see only their own flaws, and even the most perfect specimens struggle under the crushing weight of expectation. The protagonist, Vincent, doesn't have the genes, but he has a dream. He wishes to go into space, but his heart defect would render that impossible even in today's world, let alone Gattaca's not-too-distant future of genetic discrimination. But Vincent knows better than the system what his place is, and he'll go to almost any lengths to get there. Whether or not he ultimately triumphs, his combination of will and ambition, rarer and more potent than anything the gene doctors can cook up, is worthy of envy.
The DNA manipulation of Gattaca is still a long way off, but, in practice, our world is not so far removed. The astronauts among us are few and far between, and, for most of us, giving 100 percent doesn't get us halfway there. On the other hand, there are those who maybe ought to try a little less. It takes a certain fortitude, no doubt, to come to grips with one's own limits. Perhaps genetic engineering could relieve us of this stressful, often fruitless lifelong quest to find one's place in the world. But then what would we do with our time? Sit at our desks being productive? To hell with that, I say!