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Chesterton House

A Center for Christian Studies at Cornell


Set in the "not too distant future" Gattaca asks questions essential to defining the identity, value, and purpose of human life. Vincent Freeman is a "faith-child" (born the old-fashioned way) living among the elite superstars of genetic engineering. Yet Vincent is determined to realize his dream of doing what is reserved for the privileged and selected few - he wants to be a navigator on a rocket launch to Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. But to do this, he must borrow the identity of another.

What gives us dignity as people?

When are you good enough to make a difference?

What is perfection?

Who am I trying to please and whose approval matters most?

The subject of eugenics, genetic manipulation, selective breeding, and utopian idealism is hardly new. With the birth of Dolly, few doubt that a human clone is far behind if not here already. Crude attempts at human engineering have not been limited to Nazi Germany. Recently 30 US states publicly apologized for their role in the eugenics movement in this country and the incalculable human damage done in the name of eugenics. The government admitted to the forced sterilization of 8,000 mostly poor, uneducated men and women in an attempt to eradicate hereditary "defects" and chronic social problems such as poverty, immorality, crime, addiction and ignorance. Ah, what price we are willing to exact upon others so that we may enjoy life as we think it should be. What immeasurable corruption lies within the hearts of those who want life and people to be "just right." With a subtle and quiet power, Gattaca shows us a world that is not too unlike our own, the world our world might easily become.

Gattaca is an elegant, stylish, and thoughtful sci-fi thriller. The lead roles are well acted by Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law. The story works as a classic triumph of the human spirit ("there is no gene for the human spirit"), as well as a murder who-dunnit and a sci-fi morality tale. Director Andew Niccol's debut creates a stunning panorama in which he tells a superb story that is filled with simple profound questions that haunt the soul and invite us both to look within and to the heavens above. 

-Steve Froehlich