Yet another film which I finally got around to seeing after meaning to for many years.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, it is set in a not-too-far distant future in which children's genetic make-up can be adjusted at conception, a process routinely done by those who can afford it. This is not just to avoid any genetic disabilities but also to produce flawless people of superior all-round physical and mental ability. Such people, known as "valids", have huge advantages in life and are routinely appointed to the best jobs. But not everyone is born with such advantages - many are "in-valids". So what do you do if you have a burning desire to go on a mission to the outer planets, but lack the genetic superiority which is a basic requirement of being an astronaut? Particularly when instant genetic tests are carried out frequently at workplaces, as a matter of routine?
This is the problem facing the protagonist Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke). He finds a way of tricking the tests with the aid of a crippled valid whose identity he takes, and is duly selected for a forthcoming space mission. But he lives in constant fear of discovery; a situation exacerbated when he becomes involved with a colleague (Uma Thurman, so glossily perfect that she seems alien). Then a murder occurs at his workplace and an intense investigation follows in which he becomes the prime suspect. Will he be able to survive this and take his place on the mission?
Gattaca succeeds on three levels: it's a gripping thriller, relying on psychological tension rather than car chases or explosions; it foreshadows issues around human genetic manipulation which are likely to be with us in reality all too soon; and it is a human story of a fight for identity and achievement over and above that which is written in the genes. The direction is restrained and the film has a pared-down minimalist feel without an unnecessary scene or word; the score by Michael Nyman complements it perfectly. I am not a fan of dystopias, which is basically what this film portrays, but it is still one of the best SF movies I've ever seen.