Minority Report Review

by Laura Clifford (laura AT reelingreviews DOT com)
June 24th, 2002


"Murder" intones the female member of the Precog Trinity who inform Washington D.C.'s Pre-Crime unit of murder victims and perpetrators when they see the crime before it happens. Floating in a Temple held pool, Agatha (Samantha Morton, "Sweet and Lowdown") recalls the Star child of Stanley Kubrick's "2001"
while her utterance is a backwards echo of Danny Torrance's "Redrum" in his "The Shining." Where "A.I." played like a mismatched wedding between the cooly intellectual Kubrick and the sentimental populist Spielberg, "Minority Report" is the assured work of a mature auteur paying homage to those who influenced him.

John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is the lead investigator of his mentor, Lamar Burgess' (Max Von Sydow) Pre-Crime Dept. Tortured by the kidnapping of his young son while under his care at a public swimming pool, John's marriage has disintegrated and he spends his days collaring 'pre-criminals,' his nights sniffing Clarity while watching holograms of happier days. Soon after Detective Ed Witwer (Colin Farrell, "Hart's War") arrives to inspect the unit for national roll out recommendation, Anderton is astonished to see himself displayed and named by the precogs as the murderer of a stranger. In the world of 2054 (as imagined by an impressive Think Tank assembled by Spielberg) where retinal scans are commonplace, Anderton faces an enormous challenge in staying undercover until he can prove what he believes - that he's been set up.

A visit to the remote home of the precogs discoverer, Dr. Iris Hineman (Lois Smith, "Twister"), yields important information. Hineman's intent was the developmental care of crack babies. Their use as Pre-Crime demigods was a dark twist of Burgess's. Hineman also tells Anderton about the minority report, cases where the female precog sees differently than her male counterparts, which is only stored within the precog itself.

Spielberg and his screenwriters Scott Frank and Jon Cohen have taken sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick's short story and added dense layering to what is essentially a noir whodunit with a titular macguffin.
The film's tag line 'Everybody runs,' refers first and foremost to Anderton's flight from Pre-Crime, but is also physically grounded in his sprinting ability,
a talent he encourages in his son during those technologically recreated family evenings. Pool themes are reflected from the Precogs' nutritive environment to the murder of Agatha's mother in a pond and the loss of Anderton's son while he attempts to hold his breath underwater (a talent that will come in handy when he tries to escape robotic spiders via an ice-filled bath). Seeing and its duplicitousness is constantly referred to, from the foreshadowing of a drug dealer's "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king," to the names emblazoned on the shiny orbs dispensed after a precog vision, to the human eyeballs rolling away from their former owner now fitted with new ones to fool scanners. Religion is alluded to by the deification of the Precogs and the film's investigation into fate vs. choice. The Spielberg of "E.T." and "A.I." can be found in the twinned motivations of perpetrator and victim in stolen children.

"Minority Report's" weakest element, though, is in its climatic denouement which is flattened with family sentiment, pedestrian revelations and the overkill of narration over perfectly explanatory visuals. The film would have been better served by a more swiftly edited conclusion.

Tom Cruise once again lets his movie star face be meddled with, but not before Spielberg allows some of his older supporting ladies to have a grab at the man. Cruise embodies the efficient capability of the Pre-Crime cop and crushing despair over the loss of his son. But it is not the big names, including von Sydow and up and comer Farrell, that get the best opportunity to play. Samantha Morton gives an eerie performance full of alien physicality as the child turned into a precognitive police computer. Lois Smith makes her
one scene delightfully eccentric, naturally interacting with her effects-laden
botanicals. Both go on the long list as potential Best Supporting Actress nominees.

Peter Stormare ("Fargo") and Caroline Lagerfelt seem like escapees from "Dr. Strangelove" as a gleefully wacked eye transplant surgeon and his assistant Greta (who bears a passing resemblance to Kubrick's German wife Christiane). Tim Blake Nelson ("O Brother, Where Art Thou?") is another oddball as the wheelchair bound attendant of Pre-Crimes convicted, his inability to run mirrored in their suspended animation. Arye Gross ("Big Eden") stands out as tortured cuckold Howard Marks, whose prevented crime of passion opens the film.

ILM's effects work here is far more imaginative than anything in the most recent Star Wars. The Mag-Lev transportation system, where vehicles resembling
bumper cars travel along magnetic steel ribbons, is both retro and futuristic. Hundreds of details, such as the animated characters on Anderton's cereal box, are almost impossible to completely catch on one viewing. Janusz Kaminski's ("Schindler's List") desaturated cinematography perfectly suits the retro noir feel Spielberg cloaks his story in, while another of the director's regulars, John Williams, delivers an edgy score with none of his usual bombastic sugariness. The entire production design is fabulous. Sound design is painstaking, with engineers recording a particular spider species in order to obtain metallic clickings for the film's robotic spiders.
"Minority Report" is the best sci-fi film since "Blade Runner." This Spielberg
stunner demands repeated viewings.


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