Gattaca was born too soon, a dazzlingly original work of art that hit theaters in 1997, when human cloning was more sci-fi what-if than cutting edge medical technology and everyone still wondered what kind of fanciful inventions would await us in 2010. Now, looking back, Gattaca is something like a really intelligent, future-shock episode of "CSI," preferring not to dumb down the consequences of toying with nature, but rather exploring the fall-out from trying to sculpt a life and fight your genetics.
Writer/director Andrew Niccol (who fashioned something of a fascinating companion piece with 1998's The Truman Show) marshals an all-star cast in Gattaca -- Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law (in his American break-out role), Gore Vidal, Xander Berkeley, Elias Koteas, Maya Rudolph and Blair Underwood -- to tell the simple tale of the portentously named Vincent Freeman (Hawke), a genetically inferior man who assumes the identity of the handicapped Jerome Morrow (Law) to both romance Irene Cassini (Thurman) and travel into space. A murder takes place at Jerome/Vincent's place of employment, which results in his brother Anton (Loren Dean) and Det. Hugo (Alan Arkin) digging into everyone's lives, threatening Jerome/Vincent's carefully constructed existence.
Stylishly mounted and narratively free from extraneous detours, Gattaca holds up remarkably well, particularly in light of increased awareness about everything from cloning to stem cell research. Niccol's scientifically-grounded screenplay touches on a number of issues that have since gripped the public consciousness in very real ways, albeit with life-and-death consequences at stake. In Gattaca, he elegantly grafts a weighty sci-fi concept onto a minimalist whodunit with the greatest of ease. Thanks in part to the fantastic sets, which evoke a future with one foot in the past, and his uniformly excellent cast, Gattaca should continue to resonate with future generations, who may or may not come to view Niccol's masterful film as more than a little prescient.
This "special edition" updates the previous anamorphic (and Superbit) editions, but without having that disc, I cannot accurately judge whether the film has been upgraded in terms of audio and visual quality. I do know, having seen the Superbit disc a time or two, that the image quality was quite good for being relatively early in the life of DVD. More on all this below.
A sleek, impeccably realized future is one of the key elements to Gattaca's success and the 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, supposedly mastered in high definition, more than meets the challenge of faithfully rendering the stark tableaux of the "not-too-distant future." Colors are warm where appropriate, detail is crisp and the overall sharpness is solid. For an 11-year-old film, Gattaca looks very good.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track doesn't have many opportunities to shine, relegated mostly to conveying hushed dialogue and Michael Nyman's moody score, but its gets the job done with no fuss. A clean, full-bodied soundtrack that doesn't suffer from any audible flaws. Optional French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are included, as are optional English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Tragically, no commentary track on this "special edition" or other meaty bonus feature. What is offered is borderline anemic, seeing as much of it was ported over from the initial DVD release. The previously released supplements -- six deleted scenes (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen), playable separately or all together for an aggregate of 10 minutes, 44 seconds; a vintage 1997 featurette (presented in fullscreen) that runs six minutes, 51 seconds and an amusing, 35 second outtake from one of the substance test sequences (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen -- are augmented by the newly filmed retrospective "Welcome to Gattaca" (presented in anamorphic widescreen) runs 21 minutes, 57 seconds and includes interviews with some of the cast and crew (tellingly, Niccol is MIA), along with the 14 minute, 50 second featurette "Do Not Alter?" (presented in fullscreen) narrated by Gore Vidal and exploring the scientific themes of the film. Trailers for Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 30th Anniversary Edition, Ray Harryhausen in Color!, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep and Dragon Wars complete the disc.
In Gattaca, writer/director Andrew Niccol elegantly grafts a weighty sci-fi concept onto a minimalist whodunit with the greatest of ease. Thanks in part to the fantastic sets, which evoke a future with one foot in the past, and his uniformly excellent cast, Gattaca should continue to resonate with future generations, who may or may not come to view Niccol's masterful film as more than a little prescient. The cheap decision to port most of the bonus features over -- don't wanna revisit the film's themes in an era of cloning and stem cell research? -- and eschew a Niccol commentary makes this an iffy purchase for fans who may be happy with the original release. Get it if you don't have it, otherwise a rental may be in order. Recommended.