This is a science-fiction movie, just because it happens to be set in a near future but other than that, this mostly is still being a very conventional thriller, with some good moments and ideas but overall is lacking some moments of true greatness and real surprises in it.
It works out somewhat original, mainly due its main premise but other than that, this movie never really feels like one that keeps on surprising and impressing you with its originality and creativity. This all is mostly because it has a sort of underwritten story. Seems to me that writer/director Andrew Niccol came up with a good and original idea one day but was struggling to write a full length movie, based around this one main concept.
It only goes to a certain depth with its story. It isn't a very philosophical or complicated movie so to speak. So if you are looking for such a thing in a science-fiction movie, you could end up feeling disappointed with this movie. There are some emotions and there are some good characters in the movie but none of it ever reaches a truly deep or engaging level.
But yet, on some level, I actually kind of liked it as well that this movie wasn't constantly trying to impress you with its science-fiction elements and kept things as simple and 'small' as possible. No doubt budgetary reasons were also the cause of this. After all, this was Andrew Niccol first movie, so I doubt they gave him an awful lot of money to spend. But this sort of works to the movie its own advantage. I for instance liked the movie its look. So it's set in the near future but the movie never feels too futuristic with anything. This in fact lets the world of this movie feel more real and realistic, than most other similar science-fiction movies out there. The only things that are far fetched are some of its story elements but the overall approach and atmosphere of the movie always makes sure that things still work out within the world of this movie.
I in fact also liked this movie more than I didn't but I still don't regard this as one of the best or most revolutionary science-fiction movies of all time, or even from just the '90's.
And on a more positive note again, the movie has a pretty impressive cast in it. Andrew Niccol must have had a great sales pitch or perhaps he had some friends at the right places but anyway, there are some great actors in this movie. Granted that Ethan Hawke and Jude Law weren't the biggest stars yet at the time but the movie also stars some, at the time, already more established actors, such as Uma Thurman and Alan Arkin as well as other fine well known actors, in some smaller supporting roles such as Ernest Borgnine, Xander Berkeley, Tony Shalhoub and Elias Koteas.
It's a good and also original science-fiction movie, that however never truly impressed me with anything.