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Society is a strange place – although it is centuries old, its inhabitants are still divided across the globe for a variety of reasons, things that in some cases are so trivial yet cause so much pain and uproar. Even though we are a much more civilised bunch of people compared to our savage ancestors, we still display cruelty and hate at an alarming rate.

In 1997, Andrew Niccol’s film Gattaca was released, a film which examined the principals of social apathy by setting his story in the not-too-distant future; and instead of focusing on a rift due to something such as race, he instead examined the possibility of dividers arising from genetically-engineered and natural birthed people.

And now, that film has arrived on Superbit DVD – and I have the task of dissecting the disc to its core…

The Film
Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is an outsider, a natural birth or 'In-valid', living in a world in which 'designer people' - forged in test tubes - rule society. Determined to break out of his imperfect genetic destiny and fulfil his dreams, Vincent meets Jerome (Jude Law), a 'Valid' willing to sell his prime genetic material for cash. Using Jerome's blood, urine, skin and hair samples, Vincent is able to forge a new identity and pursue his goal of a mission to space with the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation, and enjoy a romance with Irene (Uma Thurman), another 'Valid'. However, a week before his flight, a Gattaca mission director is brutally murdered and Vincent finds himself pursued by a relentless investigator threatening to expose his counterfeit life and reveal him as 'In-valid', ending his dreams forever.

Gattaca: Superbit

The premise is certainly intriguing, something that offers plenty of possibilities, and a futuristic setting does offer the possibility of something new and exciting. However, there have been many dull future-set films, so I will withhold any high expectations, and try and instead focus on the strength of the narrative itself.

Right from the start the character of Vincent is painted as a determined individual who is chained by something so trivial as different genetics to other people – something that is his only barrier between him and his dream of space flight. Because his parents envisaged a natural conception and birth for him, he has been born not only as a so-called ‘In-valid’ but also someone with a heart condition. His brother, his parents’ second child, was instead born through more controlling means, and is therefore a ‘Valid’: something that adds insult to injury for Vincent.

Ethan Hawke, who I saw most recently giving an excellent performance in Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day (for which he received a coveted Oscar nomination for Supporting Actor), plays Vincent in such a way that the audience does care, does feel empathy, and a feeling of sympathy is evoked when the closest Vincent can get to Gattaca is by cleaning it. Even the job he undertakes can be related to today’s society – people who occupy such tasks are often deemed as lesser individuals, whereas in reality they could be equal or even better than those in higher positions who unfairly judge them.

The two main supporting actors – Jude Law and Uma Thurman – combine to complete Gattaca’s story emphasis: the former playing Vincent’s co-conspirator who plots to get Vincent into space no matter what laws are broken in the process, and the latter playing Vincent’s love interest. Law is very effective as Jerome, the wheelchair-bound ‘Valid’ (because of a recent accident, Jerome’s amazing genetic blessing has been effectively voided) who is willing to give up his identity in return for a lot of cash. Thurman, on the other hand, is more subtle but equally as shrewd: she soon hatches onto the fact that Vincent may not be exactly who he claims he is.

Gattaca: Superbit

Andrew Niccol, serving as writer-director, has created a film that doesn’t heap on the sci-fi, thankfully, and is instead best described as a drama set in the future, and not a futuristic drama. That’s not to say the setting isn’t used to its best ability…in fact the technology on show appears to have been thoughtfully devised, and therefore slots into the narrative effectively, instead of being some kind of gimmick.

I have seen Gattaca several times now (the first on – swearword coming – VHS), and it does, like fine wine, get even better with age. Recommended.

Video
Another Superbit title, another high quality transfer. The 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen video is presented extremely well, with the print being transferred onto DVD with no blemishes whatsoever and a crisp, clear look throughout. I found no evidence of compression signs or other eye sores, and this is the first time I have seen the Superbit tag being justified (granted, this is only the second title I have come across, and even the first - The Patriot was damn near this quality). The quality of the video goes hand in hand with the design and style of the film, something which has obviously had a lot of thought put into it: Gattaca is shot perfectly, with what appears to be a crystal-clear filter in order to emphasise the setting.

Gattaca: Superbit

Audio
The last Superbit title I reviewed had some very impressive soundtracks on it, so I was hoping that Columbia Tristar would repeat that success with this release.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) & DTS 5.1 (English) soundtracks are again present, and I again chose the latter as my preferred track for viewing. But, I was in for a bit of a surprise this time around – it seems that the DD mix is in fact better on Gattaca than the DTS. The reason? Well, firstly, on the DTS there is a slight issue with lip-synching, something that raised its ugly head very frequently much to my chagrin, and also the definition and soundstage seemed to be exactly the same, even slightly inferior, to the DD. They are both good: some nice rumbling bass throughout, and crisp and clear dialogue, but a lack of surround definition and not that much rear channel use make the score for the audio less than my previous Superbit title.

Extras
The Superbit titles utilize a special high bit rate digital transfer process, which optimizes video quality while offering a choice of both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. All Superbit DVDs start with high definition masters, meaning that the Superbit Collection will set a new benchmark in high resolution DVD image and sound, creating the ultimate in home entertainment. By reallocating data normally used for special features (extras), Superbit DVDs can be encoded at double their normal bit rate while maintaining full compatibility with the DVD-Video format.

The menus follow the usual Superbit format – with only the film’s logo to personalise them. They are static and very easy to navigate.

Overall
I very much enjoyed Gattaca, as it appealed for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the narrative is compelling and engaging, with the story one that definitely hasn’t been attempted before to my knowledge, yet Niccol has managed to create something special. Kudos to him, then. Also, the acting and directing (the latter again comes from Niccol) are nothing to be sneered at, as they are more than passable, and tread into ‘very good’ territory. Worth watching more than once, for sure, if only to pick up on things that you may have missed – subtle touches – and also to watch the intriguing story unfold again.

Gattaca: Superbit

An accomplished film is presented on an accomplished disc – with this Superbit title’s video better than its audio. The former is truly excellent, reference quality, and the audio is good, although certain issues with the latter such as some lip-synching problems and lack of true surround definition prevent it from a similar reference status. Note: again, although no extra material is present on this disc, its ‘0’ score has not affected the overall rating of this disc.


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