A decade or so ago, Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca came to a theatre near you. It received a fair amount of critical acclaim, including a few award nods for production design and music, but wasn’t much of a commercial success. Beats me why not, because the film is right up there with the best in the science fiction genre, at least in my book.
Now on a Special Edition DVD from Sony Pictures, Gattaca has another shot at the mass popularity it deserves. But does the special disc treatment add anything to improve its chances?
Set in the not-so-distant future, the film follows the story of Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke, Before Sunrise, a naturally born man in a world ruled by the genetically modified elite, whose potential imperfections were minimized or eliminated at the time of conception. Vincent dreams of space travel, to explore the universe beyond our planet. As a flawed specimen, though, his chances of achieving that dream are next to zero. He can’t even get into the training academy without passing a DNA test, which would reveal his potentially fatal heart condition and crush any hope of success. Vincent’s only chance is to masquerade as one of the elite. Through a black market connection, he meets Jerome Morrow (Jude Law, A.I.), an elite paralyzed in an accident, whose identity is available for a price. In Jerome’s guise, Vincent works toward his dream, knowing it could be stolen away if slips just once and his true nature is revealed.
There’s more to it, of course, and Uma Thurman (Batman & Robin) also stars as the film’s exotic but one-dimensional love interest. She’s probably the weakest aspect of a film that otherwise succeeds on many levels, from script to its limited effects.
Perhaps the best thing about Gattaca is how well it holds up after 10 years, thanks to its sparse production design that creates a believable future on a modest budget. If a lesser filmmaker made Gattacca today, it’d have a $200 million budget and nowhere near the suspense or heart.
Even more telling, my wife sat through the whole thing without complaint. Believe me, that’s a ringing endorsement of any sci-fi production.
Spruced up for this special edition release, Gattaca looks a lot better than in previous iterations. The transfer, presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, is relatively artifact-free, with natural colours, good levels of detail and pleasing contrast. There is a small amount of grain, but that’s to be expected in a film with so many night scenes. Overall, the not-too-distant future is looking quite attractive, if a little cold.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio presentation is good enough, but won’t be knocking any socks off. Gattaca puts much more emphasis on atmosphere and effective dialogue than big-budget effects, but everything sounds clear and detailed, including Michael Nyman’s brilliant score.
5.1 audio is also available in Spanish, French and Portuguese, along with subtitles in all four languages.
Gattaca: Special Edition, while only a single-disc release, offers up a decent selection of extras, though most are carry-overs from the previous DVD. After enjoying the film, check out the following:
- Deleted scenes: six in all, including an extended ending. Surprisingly, all are worth watching, if not inclusion in the main film.
- Welcome to Gattaca: new to this special edition, this featurette takes a look back at the film and its creation. At about 20 minutes, this is by far the most substantive extra, and well worth your attention.
- Original featurette: a six-minute fluff piece of “behind the scenes” promotional material.
- Do Not Alter: broadening the scope of the release, this featurette looks at the science behind and associated with Gattaca. Interesting, but at about 15 minutes, lacking in depth.
- Trailers: the original theatrical trailer, along with previews of other Sony Pictures films.
I enjoyed this film even more 10 years later, and its message is even more relevant than ever. I’d happily recommend Gattaca to anyone who enjoys a smart thriller, whether a fan of sci-fi or not. As for this special edition release, it’s worth picking up for the new transfer alone.