Gattaca Movie Poster Image

Gattaca

(i)

 

An interesting concept that doesn't hold water.
  • Review Date: August 16, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 1997
  • Running Time: 106 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A few characters have questionable judgment.

Violence

One fight scene, a suicide, and the results of a murder are shown.

Sex

Very brief sex scene with no explicit nudity.

Language

Isolated instances of strong language.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking and cigarette smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie focuses heavily on ideas of identity and accomplishment, though not always in a clear way. Our hero has a strong drive to overcome his supposed weaknesses, but he lies about his identity to do so without consequence. Although violence in the movie is minimal, a brutalized corpse is shown at a murder scene. One character commits suicide by burning himself. There is a very brief sex scene with no explicit nudity. Overall, the movie takes a very strong stance against genetic engineering.

What's the story?

GATTACA is set in the not-too-distant-future, in a world obsessed with human perfection to the point that genetic engineering is the norm, resulting in an unfortunate social dichotomy. The \"haves\" are Petri dish creations designed to be genetically perfect (\"Valids\"). The \"have-nots\" are naturally born, therefore, deemed imperfect (\"In-valids\"). Born naturally with a heart condition, Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) falls into the latter category, seemingly resigned to a life as a lowly janitor. His determination to travel into space is so strong that he goes to the extreme of \"renting\" the identity of the recently paralyzed Valid, Jerome Morrow (Jude Law). Vincent cannot escape his Invalid self; as DNA found in a single eyelash implicates him in a crime he did not commit. Paranoia mounts as Vincent's identity and dream become endangered.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Gattaca is a familiar story -- a high concept movie that starts well, but falls prey to lazy storytelling. Its concept is strong enough to deliver a future dystopia worthy of a future noir like Blade Runner. However, by its end, the film's hollow retro-1950s style is one that only seasoned film buffs will recognize as a nod to Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville.

Plot hole, after plot hole, creates too many bumps in the road. We are never clearly told why space travel is so important to Vincent. Additionally, we are not told why his choice to masquerade as Jerome is any more heroic than bucking the system by simply being himself. After not-so-neatly tying up a love interest with a Valid named Irene (Uma Thurman), the movie's ending strives for metaphor, yet is unsatisfying. Still, it is pretty to look at.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about this movie's themes of identity, competition, and the future society's notions of perfection. Cloning, genetic research, and identity theft may also be topics of discussion.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 1, 1997
DVD release date:December 11, 2001
Cast:Alan Arkin, Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman
Director:Andrew Niccol
Studio:Sony Pictures
Genre:Science Fiction
Run time:106 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:brief violent images, language, and some sexuality.

This review of Gattaca was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • A dark, philosophical sci-fi drama for older teens.
  • Intense, but many teens will be able to handle it.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 11 year old Written byThe Big E August 15, 2011

There is No Gene for the Human Spirit.

Quite frankly, if whoever is doing your reviews gave this movie only two stars, then he or she knows next to nothing about good science fiction. This movie is one of the, if not the, best science fiction flicks ever made. It forces us to face the moral implications of scientific and technical advancement - a question which so many in today's tech-happy society would love to avoid - and if forces us to recognize that there is so much more to we humans than can be explained merely by our genetic code. Hereafter, there be spoilers. Gattaca is set in a future where genetic engineering has become the norm, even of humans. Genetic and reproductive science has advanced to the point that people select the traits their unborn children will have so that they will be as close as possible to genetically perfect. People who have been engineered in this fashion are called, "Valids," and the world is their oyster. But of course, people being people, from time to time someone gets conceived the old-fashioned way, and they are the In-Valids. If you are an in-valid, you have no future to speak of. You cannot get hired to any meaningful job (despite laws against discrimination based on genes), and you are, in all meaningful ways, a second class citizen. Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) is an in-valid. He dreams of going to outer space, and will not let his genetic inferiority prevent him from reaching his dream. Vincent goes to the genetic black market to get the perfect DNA he needs, and through careful manipulation (and outright fraud) of testing procedures, finds himself in the astronaut program of the Gattaca Corporation - and scheduled to go into space. Vincent's younger brother, Anton, is a Valid - his genes were genetically engineered to be as perfect as possible, and he has become a homicide detective - and has no idea the ruse his brother has been pulling off for years. Vincent's about to achieve his dream when an executive with Gattaca is murdered, Anton is assigned to the case, and the evidence begins to point to Vincent (he's innocent by the way). Now Vincent's ruse must also include fooling a cop who is his own brother, and as the noose closes in, brother meets brother, and we learn that the movie's tag line - which I put as the title above - is so very true - there is no gene for the human spirit. This movie is extraordinarily well made, and every time you watch it, you will catch telling details you missed the previous times (like the staircase in the shape of a strand of DNA at Gattaca headquarters). It is well written and well acted, incredibly well filmed, and while is doesn't have the shoot-em-up action found in so many sci-fi movies, it is filled with tension and suspense thick enough to cut with a knife, and with questions which stick with you and make you think about what it is that truly makes us human, and why that matters. It is also a movie which is proving to be prophetic about the role of science and technology in modern society, and about the amoral way in which science is coming to view humanity. I checked the positive message icon because it's message is that we are all, regardless of our limitations, so much more than our constituent parts, and I checked the good role model icon (despite his breaking the law - is that immoral when the law itself is either immoral going immorally unenforced?) because of the courage Vincent displays in the face of discrimination by a society which will never view him as anything more than his genetic code, and because he is willing to risk it all, including his life, to achieve his human potential. I rated it 14 and above for the brief sex scene (which contains no explicit nudity). The fact is that if your child loves science and science fiction, and if they are willing and able to consider the moral implications of scientific and technological advancement in a world where so many try to blur the lines between right and wrong, then this movie is not merely "on" for 14 and above, it goes beyond that into a new category I'm creating right now - "Required Viewing" for 14 and above.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Teen, 15 years old Written bybubbo April 9, 2008

Gattaca

CSM was totally and completely wrong about this movie. This is a smart sc-fi thriller, one of the few Hollywood movies that entertains you and makes you think at the same time. Good stuff.
Educator and Parent of a 6 and 10 year old Written byJayRo November 25, 2013

Consider God’s handiwork: who can straighten what He hath made crooked?

The CSM reviewer is way off when he says this movie doesn't contain a positive message. Quite the contrary. The character who prevails is the one who overcomes the most obstacles, the one who exerts his spirit over his genes. While the characters who are supposedly perfect (genetically engineered) are burdened by their own perfection and are stymied by any and all obstacles. To say that he lies without consequence is not entirely accurate. He is always looking over his shoulder, and can't form real relationships (until he meets Irene) for risk of being discovered. He is alone. Besides, he's breaking a law that is unjust to begin with, so to argue that he should somehow pay for his crime of lying is just silly. The movie is not without flaws, certainly. Vincent's long-standing beef with his brother, which plays out in a game of chicken in the end, seems not to fit his adult character. And his brother's desire to see him fail also rings false, as that sense of rivalry wasn't developed in their childhood scenes. That said, I've shown this movie in my classroom for many years, and the kids are blown away. Not only do they love the move, but they seem to get the messages about science and morality better than the reviewer did. Yes, they are moved and upset by the suicide in the end, but being moved and upset, in this case, is a good thing. They see that, because of (rather than in spite of) Jerome's supposed perfection, he was flawed and was unable to cope with adversity. I do encourage parents to watch it first. Two f-bombs. One sex scene (no nudity, and the camera just sort of passes over the bed) and another scene of two people in bed together (implied sex). A shot of a bloody skull and the bloody keyboard used as the weapon and another scene where Vincent punches a cop several times in the face. Lots of drinking (Jerome, who is essentially portrayed as an alcoholic). Cigarettes. When you list it all out like that, it sounds much worse than it is. This is a wonderful movie with a beautiful message about the triumph of the human spirit ... for which there is no gene. The quote from Ecclesiastes in my title is what begins the movie.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide