Caught this on PPV this morning. I had heard good things when it was in the theatres, but never managed to make it before it left.
This movie has a science fiction setting, but it's really an allegory. For example, in the final scene when they board the rocket, the entire crew is wearing business suits. The filmmakers were not trying for hard science, here. Being an allegory, and therefore chock full of symbolism, I'm sure I missed a lot of what the movie was about.
In this not-too-distant future, much of the human genome has apparently been mapped, and parents can tailor their children to some extent. Ethan Hawke's parents let him be concieved the natural way, with no modifications. A blood test at birth indicated that he had a 99% chance of a heart defect killing him by age 30. His father swung completely the other way on their second child and had them mask out the heart problem, eye problems, obesity, alchoholism, etc.
While there were supposed to be laws preventing genetic discrimination, apparently drug screening was ubiquitous. That made it easy for business to seriptitiously test a potential hire. While Ethan dreamed of becoming a navigator on an interplanetary rocket (apparently there were dozens of launches every day,) with his heart condition nobody would invest the time to train him. The best he could do was clean the floors at the corporation where they trained the astronauts.
Eventually, Ethan gets fed up and sets out to change is station in life. He ends up getting in touch with a man who has impeccible genetics, but was crippled in an auto accident. They start an all-encompassing ruse, where Ethan takes the other guy's identity, splitting Ethan's salary between them. The company routinely checks everyone's identity with a blood sample as they enter the building and performs regular drug testing. Everything is so routine it's fairly easy to spoof.
A week before Ethan is scheduled to blast off to Titan there's a murder at the company where he works. That brings in the authorities, who scour the office much more thoroughly. Ethan has to go to greater lengths to hide his identity.
So that's the setting and most of the story. But again, this is an allegory. So the characters are really arch-types. We have the flawed but determined protagonist. His brother, who on paper has much more potential. We have a character who is in the top fraction of a percent genetically, but who is emotionally tortured anyway. We have a crusty old cop, played well by Alan Arkin, who was not really a direct antagonist but plays the role of an environment that's bearing down on our protagonist. And we have Uma, nominally a love interest, but I think a more important role is that she's flawed in a similar way to Ethan, but not as drastically. Plus we have a doctor, playing the masses, who are in on the secret but don't let on that they are. Plus a few more characters who just play plot devices.
That's a lot of roles, and I'm not sure they were able to handle them all sufficiently in a movie. Specifially, the Uma character seemed vague. Was she supposed to be inspired by Ethan's triumph over their common failing? If so, I didn't see it. The doctor's revelation at the end also seemed prefunctory. On top of this, they wasted some time with one out-of-place nail-biting scene.
The entire style of the movie is purposely over the top. Black decor with lots of indirect lighting. Rows of computer terminals and exercise treadmills. Everyone wearing impecibly tailored suits. The implication of a very ordered and rigid society. I think this was meant to be an inspiring movie of individual determination winning out over fate. I wonder if the protagonist triumphed in the book.
On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, this movie rates Rental with Dinner. They may have mixed in a bit too much Hollywood, which diluted the allegory.
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