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1/8/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Gattaca in the USA - or Buy Gattaca in the UK

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region 2 DVD: pub: Sony Pictures C822 9280. 1 DVD 102 minute film with extras. Price: 3.00 (UK) if you know where to look). stars: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin, Jude Law and Loren Dean

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In many respects, the 1997 film 'Gattaca' isn't Science Fiction. It just uses its trappings. SF done correctly couldn't be transposed into another genre. 'Gattaca' wouldn't have such a problem.

The reality established for 'Gattaca' is that parents can have their pre-embryo eggs modified to have all their best qualities and if they can afford to, a few extra talents like a disposition for music and the arts. When they are born the usual way, you have a genetically modified perfect child. Within certain limits, things like that are actually done today and with the knowledge of the human genome now, it should be possible to remove certain, shall we say, unpleasant hereditary illnesses from the gene pool. All well and good, if you're one of them but not if you aren't and it creates a two-tier class system when applying for some jobs. That happens today as well, depending on whether you have a university degree or not. Then you have the little tailor made good plot as a person wants to compete with the g-m types only he doesn't want to be caught doing that.

In this case, Vincent Freeman (actor Ethan Hawke) caught in a poorly paid menial job persuades an invalid Jerome Morrow (actor Jude Law) to let him pose as him to get a job at the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation that will allow him to achieve his ambition to get into space. As Gattaca employees are regularly tested to prove their identity, which tends to indicate Vincent isn't the first person to attempt this, Jerome Morrow provides him with skin fibres, hair, nail clippings, urine and blood samples to evade the regular tests. Interestingly, the corporation doesn't depend on anything as unsophisticated as fingerprints. Vincent has to daily cleanse himself so he doesn't leave any forensic evidence of himself around in case it comes up for examination. The way these spot-checks are carried out, the corporation is really paranoid about such things that they don't even trust security passes.

All these elements look like Science Fiction but it's just a trapping that looks like the real thing. The fact that some of the standard things for confirming identity aren't even done just indicates a different order of tests. Considering that when 'Gattaca' was being produced, the Internet was only just expanding, it's hardly surprising that identity theft, let alone consensual identity theft wasn't even in its infancy.

The rest of the story is built up around how Freeman stays ahead of everyone, including his own brother, when there is a murder at the corporation and DNA checks are intensified.

As I commented in the opening paragraphs, the only real border-line SF here is with modifying and improving the genetics of some children. Yet, Vincent isn't one of them and those that are are hardly supermen or superwomen themselves. The fact that Vincent, outside of the DNA tests, is on par with them merely by reading the right books, tends to throw the idea that they are any better right out the window. Whether that should be considered as a good point that g-m people are no better than normal people only you can decide and if you agree, then show 'Gattaca' to anyone you know who thinks g-m crops and animals are Frankenstein's creations to make that point.

This isn't to say that 'Gattaca' isn't an interesting film. It just uses the trappings than be truly Science Fiction.

GF Willmetts

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