"We try to act as gods, but nature reminds us of our humanity." -Mako Mori
Year 2050. Eugenics and genetic engineering are common practices. Those who are born as they were originally conceived are derogatorily called ‘degenerates.’ Hermann Gottlieb is one such ‘degenerate’ who dreams of becoming an astronaut, but his poor vision, scoliosis, and arthritis prevent him from doing so. The oldest of three children, he was born before his parents had the funds to eliminate any harmful genes in his DNA, but his two younger siblings were genetically modified and born after Hermann’s grandfather died and left his father a large inheritance. Hermann leaves home at the age of 17 after enduring years of psychological abuse for being ‘genetically inferior,’ permanently estranging himself from his family.
Hermann takes a job as a sanitation worker at the GATTACA Aerospace Corporation, and he starts to formulate a plan that will transfer him from janitor to GATTACA astronaut in training. He seeks out the help of Dr. Hannibal Chau, a man who matches up ‘degenerates’ with those from the ‘superior’ social class who’ve recently become disabled and can no longer get employed. Hannibal pairs Hermann with Chuck Hansen (Cillian Murphy), an ex-athlete whose botched suicide attempt left him paralyzed from the waist down. Hermann assumes Chuck’s identity, using Chuck’s genetic material (urine, blood, skin, etc.) to pass GATTACA’s daily rigorous genetic identification and health checks. Everything goes well, and soon Hermann is the top celestial navigator at the corporation.
Mako Mori is the second best celestial navigator at GATTACA and initially views Hermann as merely competition to be surpassed but eventually becomes very good friends with him. Unlike Hermann, she was washed of all imperfections before she was born. Her parents had saved up their entire lives to make her as perfect as possible and to give her the best life possible. Unfortunately, while Mako is away attending a prestigious boarding school, a tsunami strikes Japan, killing Mako’s parents and leaving her orphaned and alone. Stacker Pentacost runs the science-oriented boarding school, and his heart aches when he see his most hard-working student, Mako, fall into a deep depression. He gets her the best counseling possible and erases those sessions from her record so that she won’t be denied employment.
The newly promoted head of GATTACA, Stacker Pentacost, is pleased that his two top employees are friends, especially because he’s acted as a surrogate father for Mako. A week before Hermann is to set out on a yearlong mission for Saturn’s moon, Titan, there’s a murder at GATTACA. Extra safety precautions cause a speck of Hermann’s DNA to be discovered on the premises, and Hermann’s original identity is the suspect of the homicide. Newt Geiszler (Felicia Day), an investigator at GATTACA for the murder, recognizes that the suspect is her childhood friend, Hermann Gottlieb. Realizing that he is using someone else’s identity to work at the corporation, Newt decides she must find out whom Hermann is impersonating and tell him everything that is at stake for the both of them.
The trouble is that Newt is also impersonating someone in order to follow her dreams. There is no way she’d be hired to work in forensics and as an investigator if she let her genetics be known due to her being a trans woman and having bipolar disorder. Newt gets in contact with Hannibal because she figures that if he’s in charge of her double life, he is highly likely to be in charge of Hermann’s. As expected, Hannibal doesn’t comply, but during their meeting at his offices, Hermann hurries in to tell Hannibal of his predicament. If Hermann’s identity is discovered, it wouldn’t take much to connect Newt and her past life to Hermann as well.
Mako is highly perceptive of her friend and discovers Hermann’s secret. She is torn between her loyalty to her friend and to Stacker, but she decides to support Hermann. Mako, Newt, Hermann, and Chuck all work to keep suspicion from Hermann, resulting in a fast-paced, drama filled week before Hermann’s shuttle is set to launch.