This absorbing sci-fi film is a surprise in that it recalls many of the quieter, more thoughtful efforts of decades past. Instead of mindless explosions, Gattaca focuses on the dream of one young man (Ethan Hawke) to be an astronaut. Unfortunately, he lacks the genetic perfection required in the Big Brotherish future, so he has to buy a roommate (Jude Law) who prepares illicit samples of bodily material for him. The film is mostly an extended look at their relationship, with Law bitter about the accident which crippled him and Hawke staging elaborate deceptions at work while suspected in a murder investigation. [...] the cast is terrific, including surprises like Alan Arkin, Gore Vidal, and Ernest Borgnine, and the Oscar-nominated sets are marvelous.
Robert Firsching, All-Movie Guide
In nicht allzu ferner Zukunft beherrschen gen-manipulierte, im Labor gezeugte Menschen die Welt, während die natürlich Geborenen keine Chance zum gesellschaftlichen und beruflichen Aufstieg haben. Einer dieser "Invaliden" erkauft sich die Identität eines anderen und überlistet den übermächtigen Raumfahrtkonzern "Gattaca", um auf einem anderen Planeten die Freiheit zu finden. Ein elegisch erzählter Science-Fiction-Thriller als anklagende Parabel über die Menschlichkeit zerstörende Gen-Manipulation. In verstörend schönen Bildern spannend erzählt, konzentriert sich der Film ganz auf die zutiefst menschliche Botschaft und die ausdrucksstarken Charaktere.
Lexikon des Internationalen Films
In the world of Gattaca, you can choose the color of your child's eyes, the likelihood of obesity, the degree of intelligence, the tendency to violence, and many other characteristics. These choices are extremely important, for in the future, any slight defect or the potential for a defect may forever brand your child as imperfect. "We have enough imperfections built in already," says a doctor. The imperfect people photos clean toilets while the for larger genetically perfect people work in pristine offices while designing interplanetary space flights. Gattaca is the debut feature film of director Andrew Niccol, and it's an assured, stylish debut, a marvelously-designed and photographed vision of the future that brims with paranoia and pent-up desires. Filmed in cool blues and steely grays, Niccol captures a sterile and stifling view of the future: this isn't the future of Blade Runner or The Fifth Element. It's a future of cold surfaces, immaculately-maintained office buildings, and stark apartments. The world of Gattaca definitely isn't chaotic. To the contrary, it's a world strictly controlled and monitored every hour of the day.
Ethan Hawke stars as Vincent Freeman, a young man who dreams of the stars; however, only the people who are genetically perfect are considered for space missions. Vincent makes a living as part of a cleaning crew, but he isn't satisfied with his life. So he contacts a black market business man who deals in human lives. By changing his identity, Vincent can attempt to realize his quest for the stars. But maintaining that identity in Gattaca isn't easy. Random urine and blood tests routinely ferret out the impostors. They can identify you from your saliva residue on a sealed letter or from a single skin cell left behind when you touch a doorknob: the world of Gattaca has "discrimination down to a science." To protect his identify, Vincent must vacuum his workspace and leave behind hair and skin scrapings from the person he is impersonating (which he sprinkles from a small vial). He must wear a false bladder for the urine tests and false fingertips for the fingerprint analyzer.
Ironically, in a world where everyone believes in the infallibility of the machines to determine our identities, no one really pays close attention to faces. In fact, Vincent doesn't particularly look like the man he is impersonating, but no one seems to care. As long as the tests indicate that he's genetically perfect, his face isn't important. "They won't believe one of their elite could have fooled them."
Uma Thurman plays a co-worker of Vincent. Her initial doubts about Vincent lead her to investigate him, but the more she finds out the more intrigued she becomes. And Jude Law practically steals the film as the genetically perfect man now crippled after an accident who lends his identify to Vincent. Confined to a wheelchair, he lives off of Vincent's dreams and tries to help him succeed. Their relationship becomes surprisingly poignant.
In Gattaca, director Niccol has captured a world akin to George Orwell's 1984. It's a world of carefully monitored behavior, where few spontaneous actions take place. Everything is planned. Everything is measured. Mini-genetic labs operate on the streets. For just a few dollars, the lab clerks will test a strand of hair or the saliva left on a lover's lips. Niccol enforces the rigidity of Gattaca by giving us cold colors and smooth surfaces. The office where Vincent works is a masterpiece of design with its high ceiling and deep blue shadows. The art design creates a museum-like atmosphere devoid of human warmth. (Production designer Jan Roelfs also designed the magnificent sets for Peter Greenaway's The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Prospero's Books.) At the same time, cinematographer Slawomir Idziak creates stunningly beautiful images that plaintively evoke an atmosphere of repressed desire.
Gattaca is a remarkable accomplishment for first-time director Niccol, a work of astonishing control and beauty. Based upon his own original screenplay, Gattaca doesn't contain any laser guns or extraterrestrial creatures. He gives us one of the quietest science-fiction movies ever made.
I only wish the movie had pulled us deeper inside of Vincent's obsession with space travel. The filmmakers are less concerned with allowing us to experience Vincent's inner life than they are with capturing images on film. We find out in detail about Vincent's insecurities based on his experiences growing up: his brother was genetically-engineered and given a privileged path in life while Vincent was conceived naturally and branded as imperfect. We find out that Vincent refuses to accept his place in life, and he wants to prove that he can do whatever he wants. But we don't find out specifically what space travel means to him and why this has become his mania. As a result, Vincent's quest becomes somewhat hollow at the core. But the images are absolutely incredible and the relationship between Ethan Hawke and Jude Law is marvelously realized. Gattaca is the work of a tremendously gifted director and we should closely pay attention to the future career of Andrew Niccol.
Gary Johnson, www.imagesjournal.com
Director: Andrew Niccol
Screenplay: Andrew Niccol
Producer: Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher
Associate Producer: Joshua Levinson, Georgia Kacandes
Director of Photography: Slawomir Idziak (Technicolor, Super 35)
Original Music: Michael Nyman
Additional Music: Franz Schubert (from "Impromptu in G major, Op. 90, No. 3, adapted)
Film Editor: Lisa Zeno Churgin
Sound: Stephan Von Hase-Mihalik (production sound mixer)
First Assistant Director: John R. Woodward
Casting: Francine Maisler
Production Design: Jan Roelfs
Art Direction: Sarah Knowles
Set Decoration: Nancy Nye , Stephen T. Alesch, Randall D. Wilkins
Costume Design: Colleen Atwood
Makeup: Ve Neill
Special Effects: Gary D'Amico, Chris Watts (visual effects supervisor) // Cinesite Hollywood, The Computer Film Company (digital compositing, paint work) , 3dsite Opticals Cinema Research Corp. / Miniatures: Hunter Gratzner Industries
Computer Graphics/Design Producer: Cheryl Bainum/POP Film
Production Companies: Columbia Pictures Corporation / Jersey Films
Distributor: Columbia Pictures (USA) / Columbia TriStar Film (Deutschland)
Runtime: 112 min
Cinematographic process: Otto Nemenz Cameras and Lenses, Technicolor, 35 mm Spherical, Super 35 2.40:1 Anamorphical
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital / SDDS
Production Shooting: Started 22 April 1996
Filming Locations: KJC Solar Farm, Los Angeles, California / Marin County Civic Center, San Rafael, California / California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California / Barstow, Mojave Desert, California
Release dates: Canada 7 September 1997 (Toronto film festival) / USA 24 October 1997 / Germany 9 July 1998
Awards: Academy Awards 1997 Nomination Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Nancy Nye; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Jan Roelfs // Golden Globe 1997 Nomination Best Original Score Michael Nyman // Catalonian International Film Festival, Sitges 1997 Best Film, Best Original Soundtrack // London Critics Circle Awards 1999 ALFS Award Screenwriter of the Year Andrew Niccol - Also for The Truman Show (1998)