Movie Review

Gattaca

Reviewed by: Dave Rettig
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
18 to Adult
Genre:
Sci-Fi
Length:
112 min.

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin, Jude Law, Loren Dean, Gore Vidal, Ernest Borgnine | Director: Andrew Niccol | Released by: Columbia Pictures

If you could prevent your unborn child from ever getting cancer, would you do so? Or eliminate the possibility of alcoholism? Or increase your child’s IQ by 40 points? “Gattaca” is a film based on a society in which this possibility has become all too common. Genetic engineering of unborn children is the standard. Children are born with the best possible health, the best possible outlook, and the best possible intelligence. The downside? None, unless you are a “faith child,” a child born out of love, created naturally and not engineered for perfection.

Imagine a society where everyone is more intelligent and healthier than you. Imagine a society where your genetic makeup—engineered or natural—determines the job for which you are eligible, whether or not you can be insured, and who associates with you. This is the plight of Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), a young man with a dream of working for an elitist company in the prestigious position of a spacecraft navigator.

This film contains two bedroom scenes (with no nudity and no sex acts), minimal profanity, brief male nudity, some violence, and a bit of blood. If these do not offend you, this movie offers a launching board for intelligent discussion of some key social issues. “Gattaca” offers an opportunity to discuss the effects of prejudice and the reality of genetic determinism (the theory that people are born with certain tendencies, instead of choosing their lifestyle). These are hot topics and Christians should understand what the world teaches versus the truth of the Bible. This movie opens these subjects for discussion.

This is not your typical science fiction film. No aliens—no laser guns—no mutant powers. This is a drama set in a futuristic world, and is unsettling because of the potential reality of such a world. The movie keeps you on the edge of your seat as Freeman struggles to succeed. If you decide to see “Gattaca”, use this film to unveil the myth that we are controlled by our genes and to smash the sin of discrimination.

Although rated PG-13, I would suggest leaving the children at home, unless you are prepared to invest some time covering the many issues this movie touches.

Year of Release—1997

Viewer Comments
[WARNING: MAJOR SPOILER] The reviewer failed to mention one of the most disturbing elements of this film. What bothered me far more than the language or the sex scene was the suicide at the end of the movie. A depressing end to an otherwise uplifting film. It’s not merely the act itself that bothered me, but the way that it was portrayed as a fitting and noble end to the character’s life.

In spite of the film’s negatives, though, I think it’s definitely worth seeing, *especially* for anyone interested in medical ethics. Don’t watch it with your brain turned off, though, and don’t take your kids (or even young teens) to see it. It’s an incredibly thought-provoking and inspiring film, and highly recommended for mature viewers. “There is no gene for the human spirit.” Amen. My Ratings: [3/4½]
—Matthew Rees, age 23
I recommend Gattaca for one of those nights when all the videos you are trying to rent are out, and you are trying to fill in the void with something at least half decent. Gattaca is both slow moving and low budget. It looks at a plausible future reality where genetic engineering replaces freedom of choice. It also presents a worthwhile story of a genetically handicapped man trying to pursue his dreams in the face of this dictatorial system. Gattaca is not so much a scifi flick as a drama presenting the aspirations of an individual against an oppressive social structure.
—Todd Adams, age 31
I believe others missed the untruth of genetic engineering performed on the unborn. The movie’s list includes illnesses that can be genetic, but it also covers problems that are not genetic. The movie lists a few “learned behaviors” as something that can be changed genetically such as intelligence and alcoholism. This certainly opens the door for discussion on these lies.

I’m very interested that homosexuality was not on the list. Certainly here is Hollywood’s chance to insert the genetic homosexuality lie. they’re in a quandary, because the writer’s would have to state whether homosexuality can be removed or not. The truth is it’s a sin choice: a learned behavior.

I’m glad the movie at least saw a value in the unborn rather than portraying a future of abortion and infanticide as some twisted “solution.” It is also very interesting that the “faith child” portrays the hero (although a deceiving liar). This movie did seem to do a good job of slipping by the Doctrine of Hollywood. You could skip this movie unless you had a research interest.
—Glen Hull, age 27
My wife went out and saw Gattaca, and reported to me that it was a very interesting and intriguing movie… BUT, she did not appreciate the foul language and misuse of God’s name. I would have liked to known this, in the review it said “minimal” profanity, but evidently it was not minimal. …i find it odd that christians don’t mind the taking of our Father in Heaven’s name, that we commonly let it slip by and not bother us, as well as foul language that we allow, thus becoming desensitized to it, let’s keep each other well informed of the comment in movies so those who want to avoid it can.
—Micheal, age 23
I would just like to add my agreement with the others here that “Gattaca” was a thought-provoking and well-done movie. “The “faith-child” was seen as ultimately better than people engineered by man, a rather refreshing attitude in a science fiction world that normally holds man up as the measure of all things great. Although I enjoy the sci-fi shoot-em-ups as much as anyone, “Gattaca” hopefully is ushering in a return to the thoughtful sci-fi films that came out before “Star Wars”, such as “Omega Man” and “Soylent Green”.
—John Hale
I saw “Gattaca” on a Thursday night at a multiplex last week. I was the only patron in the theatre. Its unfortunate that this movie isn’t getting more attention. This is primarily a philosophical movie that raises better questions that lead to better answers than “Contact”. The questions raised by this movie can only be answered by Christians in a satisfactory manner. I would love to discuss this movie with a non Christian. The Technology Future without God is more likely to be “Gattaca” than “Star Trek”.
—Randy Starner, age 40
There seems to be a revolution in Sci-Fi movies. It is so thought provoking, in the respects that this is set in a realistic future.

While directly related to God, the movie shows the things that a poor soul would go through for exeptance and his goals. The end of the movie was the part that made the most impact. It was the part when I realized that, here was a man (Vincent) that wanted to live his through another man, and the other man ended up living his life through Vincent. Look at what it caused them.

When Vincent finally gave up the deception and showed his true identity and reclaimed his life, he got his dream, and when the other guy (can’t seem to remember his name) realized he gave up his life and pretended he was living (through Vincent) he killed himself, with no future or present. Although Suicide is an issue that is most ungodly, I didn’t feel this was being Glorified. It was more an ironic tragedy than anything else.
—Justin Simien, age 14
My husband and I attended Gattaca without our children and enjoyed it very much. It provoked much thought and discussion on the ethics of “playing God” by trying to create perfect human beings through advanced technology. The underlying message seemed to be that we just cannot predict logical outcomes from surface data. We are and always will be human beings created in the image of God and He can always intervene and bring about results that defy human explanation.

Defects, illnesses, handicaps, etc when responded to properly can be used to strengthen an individual and bring glory to God. What is shown in Gattaca is a human who does triumph over physical weakness through the strength it developed in his character. I would not see this with small children as it is very “deep” philosophically.

As for the nude scenes, of course they are sexual in content and context—what else are they there for? The movie stands alone quite nicely without them, and we didn’t miss a thing by not watching them. This film should force people to see what the world will be like with all references to God, Jesus and faith absent. The only religion that exists is faith in human power and technology leaving a desolete, sterile, grim and hopeless world.
—Susan Stevens, age 31
I thought Gattaca was above average from a film making standpoint and considering what we usually associate with science fiction, very low key. It is a “thinking person’s movie” and may not appeal to many sci-fi fans expecting aliens and explosions. The premise, however, I found extremely intriguing and quite frightening. How far will genetic engineering go in the near future? How far do we really want it to go? After seeing this movie you will certainly think.
—Leigh Dawson, age 38
The movie overall was really good. I was impressed by the fact that there was little nudity and language and no sex scenes. However, in the beginning of the movie, it looked like a scripter was miss quoted. The main message of this movie is that genetically engineered or not, we still have flaws and sins.
—John Traylor
While certainly not a Christian movie, “Gattaca” is good entertainment for adult Christians. The nudity was brief and non-sexual. I believe it opens some great doors for discussions about genetics and what man may do with genetic engineering.

The most troubling part of the movie for me was that the hero continually lied and cheated and we were supposed to like him for that. As a youth minister, that is definitely not the message I want our teens to be taught. Also, the suicide seemed pointless (as if there is ever a point).

As a movie, it was better than most but still had some gaping holes. Vincent carried on his deception for much longer than would be possible. Also, what happened to Anton? He just disappeared with no explanation. Good movie if you want to think a little but be mostly led. Definitely not for the action crowd.
—Dale McCorkle
“Gattaca” is thought provoking but the director’s message is not so clear… This future society fails to recognize that all humans are in the image of God and are thus God’s creation. The society labels those born the natural way without genetic altering as a “Godchild”. Therefore, those genetically altered are not considered God’s creation but man’s creation. The movie’s ending fails miserably. The viewer is left without any sense of satisfaction or understanding of what the director intended his message to be.
—Woody Elliott, age 27