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Set in what is only described a “the not too distant future,” Gattaca opens with a run-down of Jerome Morrow’s (Ethan Hawke) life. However, after the discovery of a bloody murder, a voice over announces that he is not actually Jerome Morrow. Hawke actually plays Vincent Freeman. Vincent was conceived the way the way people usually are, a nine month pregnancy after an erotic night between his parents in the back seat of a car. However, unfortunate for Vincent, he was born into a world where the new natural way to have a baby is to genetically engineer them.

Those who are born like Vincent are labeled as “invalids” and are only deemed fit to clean toilets. With “valid” children being engineered to be stronger, faster and smarter, Vincent’s dream of going into space seems only to remain a dream. Only there is hope. Vincent seeks the help of a mysterious man (Tony Shaloub), who puts him in touch with Jerome Morrow (Jude Law). Jerome was engineered to be one of the strongest, smartest and most brilliant men on the planet, only he is confined to a wheelchair after a car accident. The mystery man sets up a plan to have Vincent take over Jerome’s identity so he can get into the space centre (Gattaca) and fulfill his dream.

Gattaca: Superbit
Things go well, with Vincent rising to the high ranks of Gattaca quickly and becoming quite friendly with beautiful colleague Irene (Uma Thurman). Complications arise when the only man who ever came close to discovering the truth about Vincent’s identity ends up dead. Now, with cops only a fraction away from finding out the truth, Vincent has a week to maintain his charade before he takes off on a year-long voyage to Jupiter.

This is a very dense movie. Despite a poor box office return this film has become a cult favourite. It is now even studied in schools, the reason being that the line between science fiction and science fact is very much blurred. The sorts of things happening in this movie are already happening so “the not too distant future” is a very accurate description. It also asks questions about life and moral issues such as human fault. A personal favourite line is “they have you looking so hard for fault that after a while it’s all that you see.”

The film is also very well executed. The dense plot is introduced slowly by starting the movie, then explaining everything that’s going on in a series of flashbacks so that when we return to the present day we are totally up to date on what’s happening and who everyone is so the story can go on. The film is mostly dialogue based but it still moves at a good (but not great) pace with plenty of close calls creating some great tension. There is also some brilliant character interaction, in particular between Jerome and Vincent, as well as some very good twists along the way. There are no spoilers here but the film builds up to a very nice conclusion. Although the plot here is quite thick, the film could possibly benefit from cutting a little bit off its running time. It does tend to go on and on a bit, and there is perhaps one too many clashes with the law. But otherwise, a very well constructed movie.

The film also has very nice visual style. There are a wide variety of colour schemes and use of space that serve the film very well. An example is Vincent’s apartment, which is messy and dark in comparison to Jerome’s home which has lots of light and open spaces. The use of dark coloured clothing with some bright sets is also a nice touch. Another nice visual trick is to see people line up like they are coming off an assembly line. Good trick.

Gattaca: Superbit
Gattaca is full of familiar faces before they were big stars. Each actor gives it their all, but at that point in time it really wasn’t all that much. Ethan Hawke and Jude Law are both fantastic in their lead roles as is 24’s Xander Berkley in his smaller role as a scientist, a role which will have you saying “I love that guy” by the end of the film. Uma Thurman seems a little bored however and only really has two expressions in the whole film. She could have put more into it, as we all know she’s better than that. Another flat performance comes from Loren Dean in the role of the investigator. He seems much like an action figure and doesn’t show any facial movement until the closing chapters, appearing very inconsistent. Gore Vidal, Ernest Bourgnine and Blair Underwood also have small roles. Overall though, good performances all up.

On the whole Gattaca is a very worthwhile movie. Although there will be people who will find it tedious it is worth a look, perhaps even two or three. The film has its merits but still manages to go a little overlong and pull in some dry performances by actors who have shown they can do better. But this is a deep movie that leaves lots to think about as far as striving for human perfection.

Video
As the disc is a Superbit release, this edition of Gattaca looks very nice with a great but not quite flawless transfer in its theatrical ratio of 2:35:1. Whatever problem you may usually see with a picture, chances are you won’t see it here. This film has a fantastic look which comes out great with perfect colour saturation, skin tones, surface and shadow detail. There are no film artefacts, but in some scenes you may catch just a hint of grain in the backgrounds, as well as some jagged edge enhancement. Otherwise, brilliant.

Audio
As per Superbit usual, we get both Dolby and DTS 5.1 tracks, both of which are in English. In a film like this, you have to wonder why the DTS is needed, but it still counts in a couple of scenes. Most of the film is dialogue which is of course completely clear. There are some scenes where your surrounds will get to fire up a little, with some fantastic ambience effects (which seem a little more distinct in the DTS track) particularly apparent in the Gattaca building. The surrounds also prove their worth here and there with some nice directional effects. Look for the scene where Ethan Hawke crosses a busy street for an example. The scene in which a rocket blasts off in the finale also gives the surrounds room to play, as well as a powerful boom from the sub. DTS brings out all these effects with more power and clarity than the Dolby track. Although both tracks are fantastic, the DTS wins by a nose.

Gattaca: Superbit
Extras
As is the case with all single disc Superbits, there are no extras. Unless of course you consider interactive menus, scene selection, Dolby and DTS trailers as extras.

Overall
A very deep and meaningful movie with some nice acting and some nice twists. It’s easy to see why it is studied in schools. Looking at the film’s box office returns it seems this was a very underrated movie. As per usual the Superbit provides next to perfect video and audio. Both 5.1 tracks are fantastic with the DTS track being the winner for its added depth and punch. If extras are more your thing however, you may have to sacrifice the DTS track and go for the regular edition which includes a featurette, deleted scenes and more. However this is the better buy for home theatre owners, I assure you.


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