I still believe that "Gattaca" is one of the most underappreciated films of the late 1990's and one of the most beautiful, poetic and well-written films of the past couple of years. The film was mis-marketed by the studio, and quickly faded from box offices. Those who haven't seen it will find a marevelous sci-fi drama, both thought-provoking and emotional.
The film stars Ethan Hawke as Vincent, who is born much like many are now, what we consider the "natural" way. His parents did not choose the option of using genetic engineering, which has become available in the film's "not-too-distant-future" setting. Those who are not genetically engineered are given the lower jobs in society and looked down upon, called "in-valids". He seeks out a local "dealer", who introduces him to Jerome Morrow, a superior man who was injured in an accident. With a little help, the two switch places. A murder mystery is the underlying plot, but it doesn't figure in that much, and the film goes far further with other pieces of the story.
Vincent's dream ever since he was little is to be an astronaut; to get even an interview, he needs the material of a superior person. In this future, there is no "past experience" or even a resume. The interview is a blood sample or a urine test to examine your DNA.
The film does a phenomenal job creating a subtly futuristic world on a fairly small(18m) budget. Cinematography by Slawomir Idziak("Blue", John Sayle's "Men With Guns") is excellent, adding cold sharpness to the interiors and a golden tone to many of the outdoor sequences. The 2.35:1 frame is always filled very well. Michael Nyman's outstanding score adds emotion and drama to each scene it appears in; the combination of the visuals and score creates poetry and breathtaking beauty.
Performances are also excellent. Some have thought Ethan Hawke's acting to be less than solid, but in the right role he can be quite good. Jude Law("Talented Mr. Ripley") has an almost perfect performance as the perfect individual who is unhappy with the burden of perfection, and Uma Thurman is fairly solid as Irene, the near-perfect co-worker who Hawke's character falls for.
Although the film is not fast paced, many scenes generate a remarkable amount of tension as the audience waits to find if Hawke's character will be found out. The film is impressively written, with a fascinating plot and interesting characters. On a small budget, director Andrew Niccol(writer of "The Truman Show") has created a convincing world and thought-provoking movie. I can watch this film again and again and still find it wonderfully involving and moving. I still consider it one of the finest sci-fi pictures of the last several years, if not longer. It's easily one of my favorite films and one of the few I've seen in a long time that I consider close to perfect.
VIDEO: I saw "Gattaca" three times in three different theaters, have watched the laserdisc and both original and Superbit DVD editions. The film boasts sleek, goregeous cinematography and incredible production design, and the efforts of the film's crew can be more easily appreciated on this wonderful Blu-Ray presentation, which offers the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio (1080P/AVC).
Sharpness and detail are generally terrific, as the film certainly looks closer to how it looked theatrically than ever before on home video. The film does have an intentionally slightly soft look about it, but definition is still strong throughout the film, with small object detail often looking very good. Some slight noise and a few traces of edge enhancement appeared, but didn't prove to be terribly distracting.
The film boasts a beautiful color palette; rich deep blues and golden yellows, among other colors. The film's precise color palette has never appeared quite as accurate to the theatrical experience as it does on this presentation. While not a demo-worthy presentation, this is the best the film has ever looked outside the theatre and that alone is wonderful.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The film's sound design isn't aggressive, nor does it need to be. However, it does impress with its subtle details. Surrounds are used fairly often, but in a way that doesn't call any attention to it - rear speakers provide pleasing ambience during many of the interior scenes, especially those at Gattaca. The open, airy accoustics are reproduced well, as footsteps and voices have a realistic echo, especially in some of the larger interiors. Announcements and other minor sounds are also delivered by the rears, as is some reinforcement for Mychael Nyman's outstanding score. Audio quality is just fine, with crisp dialogue, clear effects and a few moments of low bass. The Dolby TrueHD presentation isn't a giant improvement over the Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation, but it does offer mildly improved clarity and a better feeling of space in the interiors.
EXTRAS: Unfortunately, no commentary has been recorded for this new edition. However, we do get a couple of new featurettes and some of the features from the prior releases. "Welcome to Gattaca" (HD) is a new 22-minute featurette that has interviews with Hawke, Law, producer Danny Devito and others (oddly, director Andrew Niccol is nowhere to be found.) Most interesting is the fact that the filmmakers put out full page ads about a fake genetics lab that could genetically engineer perfect children - enough people bought into it that thousands called. In terms of production discussion, the piece does manage to fit in a good deal of insights. We hear a lot about the film's production design (the film's outstanding period look was done because the film's budget wasn't enough to create a sleek, futuristic world), casting and more. The piece makes it abundantly clear that this was a labor of love for those involved and a film those involved are genuinely proud of (and they have every right to be.)
We also get the new "Do Not Alter" documentary about genetic engineering, as well as the original production featurette, an amusing outtake and a series of deleted scenes (including an alternate ending.)
Final Thoughts: Inspiring, beautifully acted, deeply emotional, stunningly photographed, phenomenally scored and magnifcently written, "Gattaca" remains one of my favorite films. The Blu-Ray Special Edition offers the audio/video presentation I'd always hoped for for the film, but comes up short in terms of extra features. The new "making of" documentary here is an enjoyable exploration of the film, but many of the film's remarkable elements - from production design to performances - deserve a more in-depth exploration than what's here. Still, the presentation is enough of an upgrade to recommend this release.
The Film A