Minority Report (2002)
★★★★ / ★★★★
The mission: Find the Minority Report—a vision of a possible future crime, namely murder, from one of the three psychics, called PreCogs, that differs from the other two—and extract it from the mind of its source. Since this report casts doubt on the process, this is proof that the concept behind the 2054 experiment called PreCrime—arresting a person, or persons, before a murder is committed—is flawed and therefore not yet appropriate to be adapted as a nationwide program. This is the plot of Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” based on the 1956 short story by Philip K. Dick, a vision of the future so fully realized that it takes the viewer through a fascinating story of morality, dangers of technology, and human error. It is a science-fiction film for the ages, certainly one of Spielberg’s best.
Yet underneath its intelligent ideas, thrilling chase sequences, and eye-catching visual touches somehow both passing as modern and futuristic, it is about a man who remains in grief, in depression, due to the sudden disappearance of his young son six years ago—now presumed to be dead. We go through this compelling journey and realize that the film is about second chances—the very thing that those people arrested for pre-murder are never given, all because of the assumption that PreCogs are never wrong. That is, until this man in grief, John Anderton (Tom Cruise), who lost his identity as a father and as a husband, is deemed guilty of PreCrime—that soon he will shoot a person dead, one he hasn’t even met.
Clearly, the picture is capable of delivering thrilling sequences of action—which is different from action sequences although it does that well, too. (The opening scene involving the cheating spouse, the “Spyders” on the hunt, and the mall with the balloons are expertly paced and edited.) Notice that before John goes on the run, the screenplay by Scott Frank and Jon Cohen ensures we know every relevant detail as to why the protagonist must do what he does.
Since we have a complete picture of what is at stake for the main character, he running for his life—his own friends and colleagues against him—is all the more suspenseful. If he gets caught, we know precisely what will happen him because we have witnessed an arrest and seen what happens to the convicts’ bodies. Thus, emphasis is not on what will happen to the character from the perspective of punishment. Instead, importance is placed on the big picture: if PreCrime became a national program, imagine the numerous factors that could go awry, the number of men and women to be wrongly convicted.
The picture is filled with to the brim with inviting performances, from Cruise who is required to juggle being a tough leader, a desperate runaway, and a vulnerable man who lost those most important to him; Samantha Morton as the most gifted PreCog with a tragic backstory; Colin Farrell as the clever and punctilious DOJ agent whose role is to audit the PreCrime program; Max von Sydow as the father of the program and a sort of father figure to John; and last but certainly not least Lois Smith as the mother of the program but has since lived in isolation because her project turned into something that we feel deep down is morally reprehensible to her. Smith gets one scene—a key one—yet it is the most memorable of the bunch because she utilizes every pause and modulate every line of dialogue to her advantage. I craved to know more about her character, particularly her time as a geneticist and her relationship with the PreCogs.
Tightly-written and beautifully photographed, “Minority Report” is a modern classic. It clocks in at nearly two-and-a-half hours and yet it moves like a gust of wind because the filmmakers are in complete control of the storytelling machine: a traditional three story arc from Point A to Point Z in a way that is direct with a few surprises along the way.
One of the surprises is its sense of humor. Watch closely when we are shown people simply living in this version of a future and how they adapt to technology, for instance. Look at the advertisements. Observe the freeway scene where cars go up, down, and sideways; are they traveling on a road or on the side of buildings?—it is like a statement on what action films have become… or will become. Hopefully not the latter; the future is not set in stone.