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‘Gattaca:’ Sci-fi classic debuts on 4K Ultra HD: Movie Review

Written By | Apr 2, 2021
Gattaca, valids

Ethan Hawk and Uma Thurman star in “Gattaca,” now available in the 4K Ultra HD format from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

WASHINGTON — Director Andrew Niccol’s Academy Award-nominated 1997 dystopian sci-fi drama now debuts in ultra-high definition format for home theaters. This new DVD release of “Gattaca” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated: PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 106 minutes, $38.99) comes packed in an exclusive steelbook case. This film’s woeful tale takes viewers into the “not-too-distant future.” Here we enter a world where genetic engineering permits humans to create of biologically superior human specimens called “valids.” These enhanced humans grow up to control positions of power.

So, do you want to be one of the valids?

Enter Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke). Freeman dreams of becoming an astronaut. But unfortunately, due to being born without an altered genotype superiority (just the old-fashioned way), he ends up working as a janitor at the elite Gattaca Aerospace Corporation. However, his world changes when he illegally buys and makes use of the blood, urine and identity of a perfect but paralyzed athlete named Jerome Morrow (Jude Law).

Now considered a perfect specimen, Vincent (i.e., Jerome) can receive the perks enjoyed by valids. That includes finding love with Gattaca co-worker Irene Cassini (Uma Thurman) and possibly journeying to the stars. Except for one problem. A murder in the company’s ranks attracts the attention of an old-school detective Hugo (Alan Arkin). And the intrepid Hugo may unintentionally threaten to ruin Vincent’s plans.

The intriguing, philosophical premise of “Gattaca” does not disappoint, with its mixing of high tech with a murder mystery methodically playing out in an Alfred Hitchcock style.

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Both valids and working stiffs alike will enjoy the cameos and the visuals of this film

Stargazers should carefully watch for appearances by legend Ernest Borgnine as the head of the Gattaca janitors; political pundit Gore Vidal as Director Josef; Tony Shalub (“Monk”) as identity dealer German; and SNL alum Maya Rudolph as a nurse in one of her first film roles.

The visual presentation — remastered in 4k from the scanned original camera with increased color saturation — offers an upgraded viewer experience. The disc highlights both the film’s futuristic building architecture and its excellent production design detail as revealed by cinematographer Sławomir Idziak.

An especially noteworthy experience occurs when examining the many scenes involving the curved concrete Gattaca building (actually the Marin County Civic Center). This holds doubly true when Jerome and Irene seem to look like matchsticks in a wide shot. Just as effective: the contrasts between the sickly yellow hue of the outdoor daylight scenes versus the near-sterile interior shots.

Examples of the reinvigorated color in this release include the blood and brain remnants splattered on a keyboard used to beat a Gattaca employee to death; the smoke blown into an underlit wine glass; and a neon green tunnel with the hues reflected off a silver sports car.

Best extras:

Viewers get a pair of previously released but worthwhile featurettes found on the included Blu-ray disc of the film.

First, viewers can enjoy a 22-minute retrospective of the film. It covers production design, casting, direction and the marketing campaign, all explored as cast and crew offer some fond memories of the project.

Next, Vidal narrates a 15-minute, science-heavy overview of the genetic research breakthroughs that could lead to a Gattaca world.

This featurette touches upon scientific discoveries involving the structure of DNA. Topics include gene sequencing, mapping the human genome, cloning, genetic engineering and genoism (gene discrimination). It’s a great and concise primer though, obviously, outdated given current scientific advances.

Also, worth a look are some of the deleted scenes included in this package. Of the six, two of them are above average in interest. The first offers a revelation by Hugo. The second works as a coda to the film, illustrating some of the greatest humans of the real world and their afflictions. Unsurprisingly, these afflictions would have placed them in the “invalid” category in Gattaca. Which is likely the point.

Finally, the new package comes in a distinctive, smooth, bronze-colored metallic case. The front image features a DNA strand plus a stylistic image of Vincent obscuring a shadow of Jerome. On the rear, an image of Irene appears.

• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.

Joseph Szadkowski

A graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in communications, Joseph Szadkowski has written about popular culture for The Washington Times for the past 25 years. He covers video games, comic books, new media and technology.