The Best of You

Vincent (Ethan Hawke) spends all of Gattaca trying to leave Earth. He stares at the sky as rockets launch toward other planets, dreaming he’ll be able to escape what society now considers a utopian state – except, of course, it’s not one at all.

Gattaca uses genetic fears to disseminate a fable about discrimination. It’s more complex than issues of race, although those remain in the undercurrent. Biases toward religion and health factor into a world where success is predetermined by those who can afford to do so. Children born naturally begin at a disadvantage; their gene code makes them feeble. No high-end employer will hire them.

Gattaca explores privilege in an unrelenting way

It’s a unique dystopia because suppression of “in-valids” is so severe, yet never visualized. Take a recent film like Elysium with its absurd separation between the classes, one caked in yellow sand, the other idyllic pearl. Gattaca doesn’t need that, creating a stark, even flat world with a hopeless sterility everywhere. Nothing looks pleasing or happy. Irene (Uma Thurman) falls in love with Vincent, but it’s never clear from her face, locked in a perpetual stasis. It’s as if her genetic disposition removed an emotive core, which was seen as a flaw.

In climbing economically, Vincent fakes his identity, swapping blood, skin, and hair with Jerome (Jude Law) whose perfection is among the elite – but now he’s confined to a wheelchair. Where Vincent’s pressures come from the inability to ascend social structures, Jerome is stuck in a perpetual depression, unable to appreciate who he is. Expectations crush Jerome’s will, the DNA-altering equally cruel to those who expect to be perfect. Gattaca explores privilege in an unrelenting way, and how costly those standards are to an individual as much as a society.

Writer/director Andrew Niccol uses the genetic angle, popular then in a post-Jurassic Park frenzy, for a sci-fi basis, yet doesn’t inherently comment on altering human code. Rather, it’s more about a society that favors and rejects people based on what they cannot control. Note how few people of color appear in Gattaca. It’s less than five, a snide comment from a black doctor early in the film noting fair skin as a positive for a couple’s second child. Gattaca’s world uses little color of any kind, not just that related to skin. What’s perfect here is viewed as a miserable sameness, and it seems as if the racists won the long game. That’s reason enough to leave.

Video

For Sony, this encode doesn’t match their usual standards. Grain inconsistently suffers from breakdowns, creating chroma noise, especially on brighter parts of the image. Gattaca still looks miles ahead of the Blu-ray, because at least it looks like film now.

Otherwise, sharpness shows a pristine, naturally sharp scan. When not diluted by compression, fine detail explodes. Texture shows everywhere. Facial definition pops from the film stock, defined perfectly whether in close or mid-range. Even long shots appear exceptionally precise.

Usually tinted with a thick yellow grading, the UHD doesn’t alter this. Flesh tones steer toward over-warmed, aggressively even. Gattaca’s world isn’t a movie focused on much (if any) natural color, although when those hues do escape, they push some hefty primaries. Some blue lights push heavy density, bettered still by the HDR’s greater brightness emphasis. Blacks bring thick shadows, generous as necessary.

Audio

In Atmos, the focus is on world design. Empty office and apartment spaces echo throughout the soundstage. Voices and footsteps ping each speaker as they bounce around. Rocket launches track between the rears and stereos to follow the edits/camera. An expressway crossing nails the speed and danger as vehicles whip past.

It’s otherwise moderate work, not surprising given Gattaca’s tenor. Drama takes focus over action, but there are no issues regarding balance or fidelity.

Extras

The only thing on the UHD is a trailer. Other brief bonuses reside on the Blu-ray, the exact same disc Sony issued previously. One (just one) outtake is included, followed by a trio of featurettes. Do Not Alter is a history lesson on genetics, followed by the excellent Welcome to Gattaca. The latter is a 22-minute making-of with plenty of interviews and insights. A promo featurette can be skipped. Six deleted scenes run 10-minutes in VHS quality.

Gattaca
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Gattaca uses genetic tinkering to intelligently explore diversity and social bias through a successful sci-fi lens.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 35 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: