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Gattaca (1997, Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman)

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In a near future that may not be so far away, there will be two classes – the valid, perfect human genetically ordered before birth, and the in-valids, those born naturally and therefore subject to defect. Niccol’s directorial debut, with a nod to Brave New World, takes the application of the law of eugenics to its logical extreme, within the construct of a taut thriller.

Ethan Hawke is Vincent Freeman, born naturally and therefore an invalid, diagnosed with a heart condition and a life expectancy of 30 years. A lowly cleaner at a space centre, he dreams of joining the mission to Saturn, but only valids can be considered. Then he meets car crash-crippled valid Jerome Morrow (Jude Law) who, in exchange for shelter, provides the essential fluids Vincent must produce to pass himself off as a valid. With his new identity, Vincent is able to get himself onto the space mission but must be on his guard at every moment to avoid detection.

Such is the security that the FBI (known as Hoovers) gather every scrap of detritus for DNA testing – a dropped eyelash could seal his fate. And involvement with the beautiful Irene (Uma Thurman) carries its own risks – after just one kiss, women take a saliva swab to see if the man could be the perfect father. And, to build the tension, Niccol throws in a murder at the Space Centre and detective Hugo (Alan Arkin) starts investigating… can Vincent keep up the deception long enough to fulfil his dream? Niccol (who also wrote The Truman Show) refuses to go over the top in his portrayal of this strange society, and Hawke and Law are outstanding as the two opposites who will become one, combined in space. The eventual world conjured up is terrifyingly realistic and truly frightening – as one critic said, ‘Don’t you sometimes have the feeling you were born just in time?’

production details
USA | 106 minutes | 1997

Writer and Director: Andrew Niccol

cast
Ethan Hawke as Vincent Freeman
Jude Law as Jerome Eugene Morrow
Gore Vidal as Director Josef
Uma Thurman as Irene Cassini
Alan Arkin as Detective Hugo
Xander Berkeley as Dr. Lamar
Jayne Brook as Marie Freeman
William Lee Scott as Young Anton Freeman
Loren Dean as Adult Anton Freeman
Ernest Borgnine as Caesar
Tony Shalhoub as “German”
Una Damon as Head Nurse
Elias Koteas as Antonio Freeman
Maya Rudolph as Delivery Nurse
Elizabeth Dennehy as Preschool Teacher
Blair Underwood as Geneticist
Mason Gamble as Vincent Freeman – Boy
Vincent Nielson as Anton Freeman – Boy
Chad Christ as Vincent Freeman – Teen
Clarence Graham as Personnel Officer
Carlton Benbry as Gattaca Hoover
Grace Sullivan as Sequencing Customer
Ken Marino as Sequencing Technician
Cynthia Martells as Cavendish
Gabrielle Reece as Gattaca Trainer
Ryan Dorin as Twelve-Fingered Pianist
Dean Norris as Cop on the Beat
Russell Milton as Gattaca Detective
George Marshall Ruge as Beaten Detective
Steve Bessen as Blood Test Detective
Lindsey Ginter as Mission Commander

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