Minority Report Reviewby John Sylva (DeWyNGaLe AT aol DOT com)
July 9th, 2002
MINORITY REPORT (2002)
Reviewed by John Sylva
"RUN!" The vigorous screams of pre-cog Agatha (Samantha Morton) echo both through the theater's speakers and in the mind of the viewer in a way that far exceeds the intensity of any special effect. It's a desperate warning to John Anderton (Tom Cruise) in his attempts to escape the highly equipped Precrime officers whom once served as his co-workers but now seek him for arrest, and, at the same time, calls the viewer to realize the seemingly otherworldly horrors that face the characters of Steven Spielberg's Minority Report.
But otherworldly they are not-in fact, if Spielberg's vision presented in Minority Report holds true, they'll be an everyday facet in just 52 years.
In an unsettling concept, three clairvoyant young entities known as pre-cogs lie in a pool, projecting future murders so that the Precrime task force can prevent them from happening. Unsettling not only because it explores unknowns in our modern world but because it really doesn't seem too far-fetched, Minority Report sees Spielberg in a mode he hinted at with last year's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, and, although the film's genre has been labeled "popcorn fun," a more appropriate label would be "film noir," despite it working as both. All the elements of 1950's noir are in place-right down to up-and-coming Colin Farrell's pinstripe suits as government-appointed detective Ed Witwer-with Cruise's Anderton caught in the middle.
So far, Precrime, founded by Dr. Iris Hineman (who, as portrayed by a dead-on Lois Smith, nearly manages to steal the show) has been flawless, which may be great news for the Washington, D.C. population, but not so for Cruise's Anderton. Searching a visually projected crime scene for tokens of familiarity as to the location of a murder is an everyday task for him that makes televison's C.S.I. look like child's play: In a tricky process, Anderton must decipher any trace of location, keeping in mind the slightest miscalculation could lead to a successful murder, and in turn, the government's eradication of the program. So you might imagine Anderton's dilemma when he discovers himself in a precognitive vision-and not as the victim, but as the killer.
Watching the mystery unravel against Spielberg's future is never less than fascinating. In contrast to A.I., Minority Report creates a world comparable to the present, with technology seeming merely an extension of our own. Never preoccupied with bluntly dazzling the audience, the visual effects interweave the familiar with the extraordinary, allowing the viewer to readily identify with what's happening. Billboards that speak directly to you, vertical highways, and animated cereal boxes are just some of the nifty concepts Spielberg has employed here as a frame for the whole picture-a picture that, alone, doesn't require the slightest leap of faith to deem believable.
As Anderton, Cruise adequately portrays a father's longing for his dead son and his drive to prevent other children from being taken as his was. His emotional connection to the Precrime program is understandable, as is his concern for Agatha, whom he steals for personal knowledge of the vigorous search for his arrest. Agatha herself serves as one of the film's many ironies, as, although she has helped prevent numerous murders, she's never been given a chance to live her own life. Morton effortlessly slides through the mostly non-speaking, often scary role, much as she did with her mute character in Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown. The void in these two characters' lives convey a sense of humanity amongst the dark and stunning visual landscape of the picture.
Driven by common noir themes of greed, distrust, and paranoia, Minority Report makes an excellent case for itself in its first two hours, a rock-solid spectacle of imagination and visceral force. But Anderton's mystery is juiciest when left unsolved. As the pieces of the puzzle slowly come together in the film's third act, the viewer realizes these are the pieces that Spielberg just couldn't get to fit right to complete the whole. Falling into a web of cliches, Spielberg loses grasp on what held the first two acts together: a sense of intrigue. Considering the bulk of the film's strength, one can easily forgive the director for stepping wrong, especially bearing in mind he gets more right in this time than three of the other summer blockbusters do combined-however, declaring Minority Report a "great film" doesn't come easily. So here's holding out for his Tom Hanks/Leonardo Dicaprio starrer Catch Me If You Can, due Christmas, to deliver a three-thirds triumph.
Film reviewed July 3rd, 2002.
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