Minority Report Review

by Ram Samudrala (me AT ram DOT org)
July 18th, 2002

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Minority Report
http://www.ram.org/ramblings/movies/minority_report.html

It's a strange thing that people like to ascribe the creative efforts of hundreds of individuals to a single person. That said, it's been a long time since a movie directed by Steven Spielberg has appealed to me. The arrival of /Minority Report/, fortunately, breaks this cycle where I viewed every upcoming Spielberg epic with trepidation.
The film, inspired by a Philip K. Dick short story, has an Orwellian tone to it: Detective John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is a cop whose job is to stop Pre-Crimes, murders that are contemplated and are about to be executed. How does he know someone's about to commit a murder? Well, in the future world of 2054, the D.C. government has harnessed the power of three "Pre-Cogs" (psychics created via questionable genetic experimentation) to determine when the metaphysical plane that binds us all is perturbed (and it apparently is whenever someone dies, sort of like a reduction in the Force). The three psychics, unable to do much else, project their results such that the names of the murderers and the victims are etched on unforgeable wooden balls.

Naturally, that's not enough plot for a movie except to introduce us to the concepts that the rest of the film is based on. The real story involves a political struggle regarding the adoption of the Pre-Crime concept throughout the U.S., something that is sought after by the powers that be. Anderton claims the system is perfect, but he doesn't realise that he's only a puppet whose strings have been pulled to make himself, and everyone else, believe that. Needless to say, the puppetmaster, in an effort to demonstrate the relevance of the Pre-Crime concept, sets up Anderton to be responsible for a future murder. Soon, Anderton's on the run from the perfect system he has championed, trying to uncover the clues that'll lead to the identity of the person manipulating him.

What bothers me about the notion of detecting Pre-Crime, notwithstanding the enormous objections already presented in the film, is the method used to "punish" the offenders. They are put into a kind of cryogenic state, even though it could be argued that since most of these crimes were borne of passion, all it would require is that they simple be removed from the situation. What about rehabilitation in the future?

The set design is incredible. There are enough landmarks to recognise that this is Washington, D.C. we're looking at. I can only hope, at least in terms of transportation, that the D.C. area will evolve in the same way. There are a lot of futuristic toys, from computers with transparent scenes that can be operated with special gloves that make it look as though a user is conducting a symphony, to intelligent robotic spiders that can infiltrate every nook and cranny in a building the police want to search.

The set design and the futuristic innovations however don't detract from the plot, and only serve to aid it. The future depicted here doesn't seem anything more than a logical conclusion of the way things are evolving, except for the concept of detecting crimes before they happen with any level of accuracy (I can't imagine even Miss Cleo being that good).

Like I said, not since /Jurassic Park/ has Speilberg directed a film that has interested me. /Minority Report/ is, in terms of film making, flawless. The plot contains the right mix and entertainment and intellect; the special effects are used judiciously to captivate but yet do not detract from the plot; the performances by all the actors are superb; the pacing is tight and there's enough atmosphere to make one get lost in a future that one should be careful welcoming. I definitely recommend checking it out on the big screen.
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