Minority Report Review

by Dragan Antulov (dragan DOT antulov AT st DOT tel DOT hr)
December 16th, 2002


A Film Review

Ten or fifteen years ago any movie fan should have been delighted with a prospect of Steven Spielberg making film based on the works of Philip K. Dick. Both names used to be associated with the classics of science fiction cinema. However, the times have changed and these days science fiction fans approach Spielberg's work with significantly less enthusiasm, especially after disappointing A.I. Same goes for adaptations of Philip K. Dick after fiascos like SCREAMERS and THE IMPOSTOR. But this year the critics were quite enthusiastic about MINORITY REPORT, spectacular adaptation of Dick's short story.

The plot of MINORITY REPORT takes place in Washington 2054 AD. Fifty years from now American capital, notorious for its high murder rate, became rather quiet place to live thanks to the radical new concept called "pre-crime". Special police unit led by John Anderton (played by Tom Cruise) is able to catch murderers before they are able to commit crimes, using services of "pre-cogs" - people with clairvoyant abilities. Just before the referendum that was supposed to allow "pre-crime" to be used on national level, Anderton's unit is visited by the group of rather unpleasant federal officials led by Danny Witwer (played by Colin Farrell). On the very same day Anderton, to his utmost horror, sees that the next "pre-cog" prediction names him as the next potential murderer. Not knowing the victim, motive and the location of the murder that is supposed to commit, Anderton must run from his former partner and try to find something to prove his innocence. Something like that could be found in "minority report", document that proves that "pre-cogs" don't have 100% identical crime predictions. The key for that could be found in "pre-cog" named Agatha (played by Samantha Morton), so Anderton kidnaps her, convinced that she would help him in his search.

It is not particularly necessary to describe Spielberg's movie magic skills
or his ability to make every new film different from the previous ones. Futuristic noir atmosphere of Dick's fiction - world where superior technology not only fails to solve human problems, but only makes them worse - is brought by the dark tones of Janusz Kaminski's photography. The tone of the film is therefore dark and depressive, despite Spielberg using every opportunity to create seemingly utopian world of technological wonder. Yet, in this world man is even more alienated, frustrated and likely to indulge in all kinds of pathological behaviour. Script by Scott Frank and Joel Coen is filled with all kinds of irony - protagonist is policeman who is so burned out that he must use drugs in order to do his job. The ironical tone of the film at times becomes misanthropic sarcasm, especially in the plastic surgery scene that features Peter Stormare and that looks like it originally belonged to some unfinished Kubrick's movie.

Dark tone of the film gets even darker when we remember that the premise of MINORITY REPORT is many way similar to some events that take place in our present. The concept of "pre-crime" is based on the paradox - people must be deprived of their liberty and put to all kinds of unpleasantness because of the crimes they didn't actually commit. In many ways, the fate that awaits our protagonist is similar to the fate suffered by thousands of people in USA, UK and other supposedly enlightened Western democracies after the tragic events of September 11th 2001 - being arrested and detained indefinitely simply because some bureaucrats looked upon them as potential threats to public safety. The same principle is used as the argument of all those who advocate killing millions of innocent people only to prevent certain nations from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. Of course, that dilemma created by "pre-crime" - whether to sacrifice the individual freedom for the public safety or vice versa - has existed from the beginnings of organised human society and it isn't likely that the real answer would be found in 2054 AD.

Spielberg had opportunity to use MINORITY REPORT to present both arguments. His approach was, however, somewhat schizophrenic. In the first two thirds of the film he takes almost pornographic pleasure in displaying the superior technology and its effects on the society. However, at the last third of the film, the tone changes and Spielberg suddenly becomes civil libertarian. This transition is everything but smooth - what was supposed to be disturbing vision of the future turns into cheap whodunit, with rather predictable plot resolution. Just like in the case of SCHINDLER'S LIST, finale is further compromised with overt and completely unnecessary sentimentality. Viewers who were likely to use brain (and Spielberg encouraged them in the first two thirds of the film) would also find plenty plot holes and unanswered questions. For the author of this review one of those questions dealt with the obviously superior method of law enforcement being for years used in single jurisdiction and never being tried or copied anywhere else.

On the other hand, those viewers who prefer action to intellectual exercise in movies would be quite pleased with MINORITY REPORT. This film features few quite interesting and memorable chase scenes. In the other scenes Spielberg shows great respect for his colleagues, so the filmophiles would find plenty of references to the works of Hitchcock, Kubrick or Ridley Scott. In the end, MINORITY REPORT is perhaps not the best possible marriage between entertainment and serious content, but it nevertheless represents step in good direction for Spielberg.

RATING: 6/10 (++)

Review written on December 14th 2002

Dragan Antulov a.k.a. Drax
http://film.purger.com - Filmske recenzije na hrvatskom/Movie Reviews in Croatian
http://www.purger.com/users/drax/reviews.htm - Movie Reviews in English http://www.ofcs.org - Online Film Critics Society

More on 'Minority Report'...

Originally posted in the rec.arts.movies.reviews newsgroup. Copyright belongs to original author unless otherwise stated. We take no responsibilities nor do we endorse the contents of this review.