It wouldn’t be difficult to come across at least one individual on this planet who hadn’t at some point in their lives desired to be someone “perfect”, genetically speaking. Some of us have our genetic flaws and whose effects start to either manifest right from birth or at a later time in our lives. And then there are the privileged ones who are born with little to no physical imperfections. In director Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca, they are called “Valids” and the rest are deemed “Invalids”. In one of the most thought-provoking sci-fi films to come out in recent times, Ethan Hawke plays Vincent, an “Invalid” who assumes the identity of a “Valid” named Jerome (played by Jude Law).
The setting is sometime in the “not-too-distant future”. Genetic engineering has become commonplace and so are genetically manipulated human beings who are born with nary a flaw in them. The parents get to decide the gender of their children and even get to pick what flaws should or should not be present in them. It’s like going to a restaurant and telling the waiter how your meal should be prepared. Vincent was born naturally without the aid of genetic manipulation and soon after he was born, a blood test was conducted which predicted the various health problems he was going to have and even estimated his life span – 30.2 years.
His dejected parents do not wish to make the same mistake twice and makes sure that their second child is a “valid”. Vincent gets a brother, Anton, who is of a superior genetic makeup. Vincent grows into a pimply faced, spectacle-wearing young man and ends up working as a janitor at Gattaca Aerospace Corporation, where he develops a wish to travel to space. Being an “invalid”, naturally he is ineligible to become a navigator but help comes in the form of a “fixer” who sets him up with Jerome, a “valid” who is crippled from the waist down as a result of a serious accident. Seeing that his life now won’t amount to much and that his dreams of being a navigator are now squashed, Jerome decides to help Vincent achieve his. He trains Vincent to become him.
Gattaca is about a society that treats someone with a pure genetic makeup as superior to the rest and thereby making them eligible to all the best things in life, whereas the genetically inferior are discriminated. It’s about the triumph of one man going against all odds and transcending his limitations. The film makes the strong argument that in the end, it’s not genetics but our determination and character that’s going to bring success to us.