directed by Andrew Niccol
Andrew Niccol’s 1997 sci fi classic is exactly that: a classic in every way. And it took the passage of nearly 15 years for me to really see it. I enjoyed the film when it first came out (I vividly remember going to see it with my sci fi film geek friends), but what I missed as a youngster is how truly timeless this film about the future really is. The science fiction that really endures is the kind that doesn’t concern itself with the gimmickry and flashiness of a brave new technology, instead allowing the human creative sentiment to organically bridge the gap, to realistically imagine the possibilities that the future will bring. Films like Back to the Future II, while still classic in terms of story (not to mention highly entertaining), date themselves by highlighting such whimsically ridiculous “advancements” like the hover board (though the paneled wall in the McFly house that serves as scenery and a multi-screened television is strangely relevant at this very moment), but Gattaca instead insinuates about a world filled with technological wizardry without throwing a spotlight on it, which allows the viewer to fill in the gaps with his or her own contemporary reference points. The cinematography and art direction of the film are impeccable, and like Kubrick’s 2001, the retrofuturistic interpretation of how the future might “look” is magnificent and, somehow, highly plausible. The film is as fresh today as it was when I first watched it in the dark theater, more enamored with the story of human will than I was with gadgetry. The acting is top notch, from Ethan Hawke’s hurt boy with something to prove demeanor (that he perfected to marvelous effect in Training Day) to Uma Thurman’s calculated yet vulnerable composure to Jude Law’s stunning rookie performance (in American films, that is), and let’s not forget the great Alan Arkin, playing the almost Columbo-esque detective with a dry wit befitting such a role. Niccol’s film is fully realized in every way, from the framing of every shot to the score to the sensational uber-deco, nickel, bronze and aluminum architecture of his future. Gattaca manages in fine form what films like Vanishing on 7th Street struggle and fail to do: to create a modern addition to a genre that echoes, but does not mimic, mind, its classic forbears (to which it owes much credit). Watch it again, especially if it’s been as long for you as it had for me.