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on 2 October 2008
To understand Gattaca, it helps to know a little history.

About a century ago, progressives took up what the New York Times in 1912 called the "wonderful new science" of eugenics. Because of improvements in medicine and public health, eugenists said, the "unfit" were having more children than the "fit." Their solution included both positive eugenics--encouraging the "fit" to have more children, and negative eugenics--preventing the "unfit" from having children.

Forced sterilization laws in some 37 states were their greatest achievement, with California being the most zealous in applying its law. But legislation in more conservative states, particularly in the South, was blocked by claims that forced sterilization was unconstitutional. That barrier was shoved aside in a 1927 Supreme Court decision, Buck v. Bell, which regarded forced sterilization laws as no different from laws requiring vaccination. Regard some children as a blight on society, and sterilization serves the same disease-eliminating function as vaccination.

The feminists of that day had no problem with negative eugenics. They believed that the birthrate of the "unfit" should be lowered by any means possible. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a prominent feminist sociologist, made eugenics a key feature in her 1915 feminist utopia, Herland. What they objected to was "forced motherhood," meaning social pressures on women like themselves to abandon professional careers for children.

Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger took up their cause. She was vehemently opposed to positive eugenics, but zealously championed negative eugenics. Most of those regarded as "unfit" were recent immigrants from Southern Europe (Catholic) and Eastern Europe (Jewish). Because sterilization laws were only effective against people in state institutions, they could do little to lower immigrant birthrates. Her answer was to build birth control clinics in immigrant neighborhoods, starting with the Brownsville neighborhood in NYC. Poverty would be used as a lever to force down immigrant birthrates. You can read her arguments in her still-in-print 1922 bestseller, The Pivot of Civilization. To understand what is going on today, simply substitute blacks and Hispanics for those earlier Catholic and Jewish immigrants. And of course abortion has replaced birth control as the tool of choice.

Gattaca envisions a future world run by people much like those early twentieth century eugenists and birth controllers. If your parents allowed geneticists to manufacture you to the proper specifications, then life will be good, with all the best career paths open. But if, like the Vincent in this movie, your parents conceived you the old fashioned way, then you're consigned to menial jobs. In Vincent's case that meant cleaning the headquarters of Gattaca, an organization tasked with exploring the solar system.

Since he was a child, Vincent has wanted to explore space. Not being a member of the genetically programmed elite, that path seemed forever closed to him. This movie describes how he worked to beat the system. I won't give away details and spoil your fun, but I do suggest you pay attention to the clash between Vincent and his genetically programmed brother in their `who will turn back first' swimming challenge. This film reminds us there are aspects to our personalities, particularly courage, that can't be programmed in. They're the result of the choices we make. Vincent wins because he risks everything for his dream, saving nothing for the swim back.

This an excellent film. You won't regret watching it.

--Michael W. Perry, editor of: The Pivot of Civilization in Historical Perspective: The Birth Control Classic and Eugenics and Other Evils : An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 December 2015
Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, Gattaca is a low-key, stylish, intelligent, dystopian (depending on your point of view) near-future SF thriller which explores the practice of eugenics in a brave new world where, due to genetic engineering, perfect humans have inherited the earth while natural born humans are consigned to a life of drudgery and menial jobs. This is a powerful and sensitive story of a ‘godchild’, a ‘degenerate’, an ‘in-valid’ who dares to dream and through an elaborate subterfuge challenges the system. Ethan Hawke’s Vincent (a wonderfully understated performance) stubbornly resists and rebels against its orthodoxy and with the aid of Jude Law’s flawed ‘valid’ inveigles himself into a training programme preparing for a forthcoming expedition to one of Saturn’s moons. Vincent appears to have succeeded in his quest when he is chosen to be a crew member on the next space mission. However, a week before take-off an administrator is murdered and when the subsequent police investigation unearths a clue which suggests the presence of an in-valid within the Gattaca organisation Vincent’s plans are placed in grave jeopardy. With a fine cast including Uma Thurman, Elias Koteas, Alan Arkin and Gore Vidal, superb cinematography and a subtly affecting musical score by British composer Michael Nyman this movie is an often overlooked SF classic which deserves greater recognition. As well as exploring themes of predestination and free will Niccol poses an ethical question about the nature of science which has significant resonance in contemporary society. This is an outstanding film, more complex than it initially seems, and which rewards with each viewing. Highly recommended.
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on 22 February 2002
A fantastic yet frighteningly realistic depiction of the future. This film tackles the issue of genetic "designer babies" or "valids". Hawkes plays Vincent an "In-valid" as he was concieved the good old fashioned way. However is at a disadvantage compared to his brother who will live longer and more prosperous. This film beautifully deals with Vincent's dreams of going to space and shows what sacrifices he'd be prepared to take. The film predicts that our society will still have prejudice but this time to "invalids". Overall a fantastic 100mins of quality sci-fi and no dodgy space ships in sight! Law must be given credit for an touching performance as Jerome-a disabled valid who befriends Vincent and helps him. Uma Thurman adds subtle romance plot to the film. Overall the film showed the pros and cons of genetic engineering and struggle to overcome prejudice. It is inspirational.
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on 8 January 2014
This is a German version that has English as a second language for the sound, as well as English subtitles. I really like the movie, so this is not an issue, but you do have to switch to English on some players...
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on 10 March 2000
Quite why this film was so criminally ignored on it's cinema release will remain a mystery. The video gives you the opportunity to discover the hidden gem of 90s film-making. Gattaca is based in the not to distant future, a world where your gentic code defines your destiny. Ethan Hawke plays VIncent, an 'in-valid' whose natural conecpetion and birth leave him weak in body, but determined in spirit to overcome the stigma society has placed on him. He conspires with Eugene, a gene enhanced valid, to enter the space company Gattaca and fulfil his dream of becoming an astronaut. The film is visually mesmeric, ably assisted by Michael Lyman's dream-like score. Wonderfully scripted with great sets and costumes, Gattaca really deserved a much higher profile than it was given.
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on 22 October 2012
I am not exactly a film buff, my collection of films numbers around 20 exemplary films, Soylent Green, Das Boot, Gladiator etc - and this film has a well deserved place in that collection.

Well acted and with a "different" sci-fi angle it is recommended by me.
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on 20 December 2012
I absolutely loved this film because it is a telescope into the future ...actually, drop the telescope, DNA sequencing is already here!!!. I watched a documentary recently of parents with sick children who have paid a lot of money to have their children's genomes sequenced to find exactly which code was written wrong. The children were given relevant treatment with the right medication that completely turned their lives around (you are talking about children who have never walked before in their ten years of life, eventually jumping up and down on trampolines). The documentary went on into other possibilities of what holding this DNA information might do in the future, in the wrong hands, or in the hands of officials, which borders on eugenics and similarities to what happens in the film Gattaca. In fact one of the parents in this documentary said what has happened to them through DNA sequencing was paralleled to the movie Gattaca which is why I purchased this movie.
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on 8 March 2002
Gattaca, is Amazing. I haven't enjoyed a Sci-fi film as much as this since Bladerunner. Beatifully filmed, Andrew Niccol (Director) has worked wonders. This is one film that really pulls on the heart strings, and is very topical of today. The film questions our right to 'play god'. The idea of 'perfect' people (or Valids as the film labels them) has been discussed by most people, and the question/debate of it being morally correct... etc still continues.
The film follows a natural born (Or In-Valid) trying to beat the system, and realise his life long dream of space travel.
This is thinking mans Sci-fi at its best!. Un-missable.
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on 15 March 2013
I watched this with GCSE Religion and the Media students a few years ago and have purchased it again to help look at possible consequences of Genetic Engineering. It is still interesting and the students had a lot to say in discussion.
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Gattaca does a great job in bringing up modern ethical questions with eugenics. In a near future, most humans are born artificially as it is possible to create "perfect human beings", and the ones that are born the natural way are called "degenerates" and have almost no possibility to have a comfortable lifestyle. This isn't a "techy" sci-fi film. It focuses on the lives that are being effectively ruined by a flawed system. Wonderfuly tragic performance by Law, and Hawke and Thurman have fantastic chemistry. Definitely worth a watch
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