“Minority Report” takes place in the near future (50 years or so), and stars Tom Cruise as Anderton, the head of a Washington D.C. police bureau in charged of stopping murders before they take place. The bureau of Precrime is a prototype, and D.C. has been using the system for the last 6 years, essentially stopping all murders within its district as a result. At the heart of Precrime are 3 precogs, psychics with the ability to see murders because, as one character (weakly) explains, murders have a drastic impact on human civilization, and thus the crime affects the precogs more than other crimes like say, physical assault or simple violence.
The film opens with Precrime about to go national, and John Anderton (Cruise) firmly at the head of the specialized crime fighting unit. But because Precrime is about to become the premier police unit in all the land, the government has sent Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) to investigate the system for flaws. As Anderton and Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow), Precrime’s founder, attempts to navigate Witwer’s aggressive investigation, the precogs declare a murder — and the perpetrator is none other than Anderton! With the tables suddenly turned on him, Anderton flees. Anderton is convinced there is a conspiracy against him and that Witwer has something to do with it. But if the Precrime system is flawless, as Anderton himself claims, how could it be wrong?
No one has ever accused director Steven Spielberg (“Saving Private Ryan”) of doing “hard science” movies; “E.T.” and “A.I.” bears out this point. With “Minority Report” Spielberg and the brilliant cinematographer Janusz Kaminski have fashioned a good looking picture, although this is nothing new for anyone familiar with the duo’s works. The cityscape and technology of “Report”‘s future is stunning, fluid, and terrifically rendered. This movie looks good.
The story itself is a little iffy. For instance, if there are only three precogs in the whole world, how exactly are they going to be able to work once the Precrime bureau goes national? At the moment the trio are only responsible for murders in the Washington D.C. area, a very small section of the country, and even that is taking its toll on them. (The precogs seem to go into a state of painful convulsions each time they see a murder.) For that matter, how exactly does the precogs know the names of the victims and perpetrators in the murders they see? Sure, they can see and hear the murders taking place as if watching a movie, but how do they know the names of those involve?
“Minority Report” was adapted from a short story by Philip K. Dick, the man behind a number of recent sci-fi movies, including the dull “Imposter” and, in the past, “Total Recall” and “Blade Runner.” According to Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Report” was written by Dick as a continuation of “Recall”, and in fact the precogs in “Report” were supposed to be the psychic Mars mutants seen in “Recall.” It would have been interesting to see how Arnold Schwarzenegger might have handled the Anderton part because, in all honesty, Tom Cruise has little to do except run from his former comrades. Saying that the role was not challenging is an understatement.
“Minority Report” is a terrific film from an aesthetics angle, but it has little to nothing to say about its main subject: the apprehension and incarceration of people who, although they are supposed to commit a murder, nevertheless hasn’t yet done anything wrong. The screenplay does take a rather weak stab at the moral dilemma by having Farrell’s Witwer bring it up on one or two occasions, but Farrell’s character is such a Professional Jerk (see “Scorcher” for reference) that there is no resonance to his arguments.
Where it lacks in epiphanies or even minor intellectual merit, “Minority Report” makes up with dazzling camerawork and terrific sets. The special effects, in particular the “spider” creatures that the Precrime cops use to seek out fugitives, are quite inventive. Despite that, I could have done without the jetpack fight sequence, which comes across as just a little bit silly.
Steven Spielberg (director) / Philip K. Dick (novel), Scott Frank, Jon Cohen (screenplay)
CAST: Tom Cruise …. John Anderton
Max von Sydow …. Lamar Burgess
Steve Harris …. Jad
Neal McDonough …. Officer Gordon Fletcher
Patrick Kilpatrick …. Officer Jeff Knott
Jessica Capshaw …. Evanna
Colin Farrell …. Danny Witwer