Minority Report

minority-report-poster“Everybody runs.”

The Scoop: 2002 PG-13, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, and Samantha Morton

Tagline: What would you do if you were accused of a murder, you had not committed… yet?

Summary Capsule: A cop battles the system he helped create and the fate it drives him to, only to fall exactly into its trap.

PoolMan’s Rating: Here’s hoping I never get my name printed on a billiard ball. Either one.

PoolMan’s Review: A couple years ago, in my review of Blade Runner, I said that the key to good science fiction is to tell a fundamentally human story using a fantastic or futuristic environment as a supplement, not the focus. In other words, if the guns and devices and doohickeys of the future take center stage over the characters, the movie as a whole suffers (one of the big reasons I think Phantom Menace drew the flak it did). The opening third of Minority Report sees director Steven Spielberg skate really close to this line, but thankfully, he saves the dramatic core, and creates a pretty good movie in the process.

For the longest time, I believed the short story Minority Report was a Grisham legal-thriller, like The Firm. You have to admit, it’s an easy mistake to make. It’s actually a story of a not too distant future set in Washington DC, where the notion of “pre-crime” is about to be taken out of it’s local pilot phase and become the federal way of catching criminals.

Pre-crime basically revolves around using a hive mind of three psychic children (the “pre-cogs”) to predict when violent crimes, particularly murders, are going to be committed, at which point a high-powered swat team tries to prevent the murder, and place the would-be killer into a living coma. The result: violent crime in Washington drops in the high 90-percentile range, and there hasn’t been a successful murder in six years. Unfortunately for the chief of the program, John Anderton (Tom Cruise), the psychics have picked him to be the next killer, throwing him headlong into a search for the truth as to why he’s being set up to kill a man he doesn’t know.

Despite the fact that a lot of the movie features technology that really only seems to be there to show some fancy gizmos without advancing the plot, this is still a great story to get into. Watching Anderton struggle and fight not only the cops chasing him, but destiny itself, all the while seemingly putting himself closer and closer to the fate he’s trying to avoid is a fascinating thing to watch. Despite his best efforts to prove his innocence, he keeps doing exactly what he needs to do to commit the crime. And Tom Cruise does a good job not letting Anderton simply be a pretty boy. The character is a drug addicted man with a lot of skeletons in his closet, and he proves himself willing to go to some pretty horrendous lengths (including some pretty freaky back alley surgery) to achieve his goals. Trying to tell a story this gritty without a believable lead would be a huge mistake, and Cruise comes through.

If you’ve never read the story (I haven’t), the plotline here will keep you guessing until a few minutes before the end. The ending itself leaves a little bit to be desired (process of elimination takes its toll), but it’s not really a problem. How often do you get to watch a murder mystery in reverse? Add in a great cast (I particularly liked Samantha Morton, who played the psychic Agatha… her scenes were very interesting, and she did a good job conveying her terror at facing the world of the present) and you’ve got something I was pretty happy shelling out a few bucks for.

Calling Minority Report any one genre will get you in trouble. It’s action, murder mystery, science fiction, and thriller all in one, but never completely becomes any single category. However, it holds all its parts together very nicely, provided you can handle some pretty grim content. And hey, we even get a new definition of the term “four eyes”.

What? WHAT?

Kyle’s Rating: The majority report is that this movie blows!

Kyle’s Review: I really, really wanted to like this movie. I like Tom Cruise (honest!) and Steven Spielberg has done some good work in the past (sure!), so I felt like having high hopes for Minority Report wasn’t as bad as, say, having high hopes that I would get a working Jedi lightsaber for Christmas. Not that the plastic I did get isn’t great… lights and authentic sound… great…

Let’s cut to the ultimate problem of Minority Report: it’s one hour of good movie saddled with nearly a hour and a half of stupid, useless garbage. I could dig the pre-cogs, Cruise as practically an anti-hero, scientific twists in the pre-cog system, and the fantastic scene where Cruise dodges capture through pre-cog Angela’s perfectly-timed suggestions (I really loved the balloons!). But most of the rest of the film feels so much like filler it is painful to watch. Some of it is so impossible, it’s not funny. Personally, I think Cruise’s character should be part of a futuristic car by the end of the film (a total in-joke that only people who have seen the film will get, and even a portion of those people will consider me pretentious and idiotic for bringing it up. Sorry.).

Let me also mention this: Max von Sydow’s head is HUGE compared to Tom Cruise’s head. What is that all about? I was terrified when I saw their unbalanced noggins in the small frame, and I remain terrified to this day. Disturbing.

If someone wants to cut Minority Report to like a hour or so, I bet it could be great, highly watchable stuff. As it is, it’s occasional glimmers of true cinematic cool hopelessly submerged among fluffy yet deadly piles of boring sci-fi movie nonsense. After that sentence, I totally forgot what I was talking about. Oh, right, this is a 40% good attempt at a sci-fi-action-drama so it won’t kill you to watch it, but wouldn’t you rather fly a kite instead?

I was going to do one last paragraph centering exclusively around suggesting you the reader find a pre-cog in your neighborhood and ask if you would enjoy the film or not, since they would be able to see your future reaction and warn you from seeing the film. But I couldn’t make the joke work. However, I did see that one coming.

Justin’s Rating: Mmm… bald girl…

Justin’s Review: One of the most difficult concepts of theology is the question of predestination and free will. Does God not only know everything that will ever happen, but also predestines all things to occur, both good and bad? Do we have complete free will instead, the power to make a choice to control our destinies, both good and bad? Or is there some sort of higher and more complex blending of the two that allows for predestination and free will to simultaneously exist? It’s a question that many religious people have come up against in their serious studies, and it’s a gripping one. Even if you don’t believe in God, you may struggle with the idea of some overarching fate that manifests its control in your life without your permission, guiding you to the same conclusion no matter what your decisions.

Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report is firstly a mystery, secondly science fiction, and thirdly an action piece. Yet the crux of the story lies with this same seeming paradox between events predestined to happen, and our ability (or inability) to change the outcome. In a way, it’s much like many time travel stories flicks have been preaching to us for years, but we get a slight new twist on an old staple.

It’s the mid-21st century, frogurt is widely available, I am a celebrated rock star legend of world-wide renown, and there’s a new crime-fighting tool available to the authorities. No, it’s not Scooby-Doo 2054, but instead three “precog” people that are able to see murders before they happen. This allows the police to not only stop said murders, but legally arrest and detain the would-be murderers (since, according to them, they would’ve been murderers and the fact that they were stopped changes nothing). Precrime police chief John Anderton (a hollow-eyed Tom Cruise) finds himself named in a future crime, starts pumping his crazy legs, and sucks off the candy-coated shell of deceit to find the rich chocolatey goodness of the truth inside.

This is a good film, solidly innovative in technology, entertaining in plot, and reasonably gripping with suspense. What hits me most is that this summer blockbuster isn’t just a hack job of pulp fiction, but a lovingly crafted popcorn flick by Mr. Spielberg. Most proven directors in their early autumn years turn to either far more artsy efforts or peter out with forgettable crap. Yet here we have a guy who really has nothing to prove to anyone at this point, who’s been one of the best directors in the business going on for three decades, and still you can see how he still loves to make a movie that is clearly entertainment over “Lookit Me” Oscar bait.

It’s hard not to compare Minority Report to Spielberg’s earlier A.I.; both have a distinct futuristic vision, with curvy cars and nifty gadgets. Yet while A.I. strained my patience to the point of wallpaper-stripping frenzy, Minority Report lacks the least shred of obnoxious pondering and gets straight to the fun stuff instead. Minority Report’s world is filled with personal ads keyed to your retinas everywhere, freaky metallic spiders, and bald girls. I’m telling you people, they’re cute! This doesn’t even mention that there’s enough adrenaline and humor for all those sickos out there who are into that sort of thing.

For my money, Minority Report is a cut above most high-budget summer flicks, and worthy of a rewatch now and again.

Thanks, Mr. I-Don't-Want-You-Sleeping-Tonight!

Thanks, Mr. I-Don’t-Want-You-Sleeping-Tonight!

Intermission!

  • Spencer Treat Clark (aka “Not quite Haley Joel”) was cast as the 9 year old version of Anderton’s son, Sean. However, his scenes were cut from the movie, and it is established that Sean was abducted at age 6.
  • Three years ago, Spielberg assembled a team of sixteen future experts in Santa Monica to brainstorm out the year 2054 for him. This team included Neil Gershenfeld of the Media Lab at MIT; Shaun Jones, director of biomedical research at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency); William Mitchell, dean of the school of architecture at MIT; Peter Calthorpe, the New Urbanism evangelist; and Jaron Lanier, one of the inventors of virtual reality technology.
  • The silvery-water effect over the studio logos
  • Ads are EVERYwhere
  • Don’t jump out of the water like that, fish girl!
  • Falling into the yoga/ballet room… classic
  • Dude, I want a jet pack!
  • The highways of the future are not meant for those afraid of heights.
  • “Sick sticks”: a whole new level of gross crimefighting!
  • Cameron Crowe and Cameron Diaz have cameos on the train. Crowe as the man with the newspaper who spots Anderton, and Diaz as a woman behind him.
  • The surgeon’s wife grabbin’ a little beefcake!
  • The opening credits have a watery effect overtop of them, which relates to the opening shot of Agatha in the tank.
  • Agatha momentarily refers to Anderton as “Anderson”.
  • COPS, right down to its infamous “bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?” theme song is still alive and well in 2054.
  • The pre-cogs are named after mystery writers: Dashiell (Hammett), Arthur (Conan Doyle), and Agatha (Christie).
  • Eyewear accessories supplied by A Clockwork Orange! (ow!)
  • Witmer’s facial hair keeps changing.
  • Anderton kicks the window out on his car to escape when it the cops override it, but in the next shot, he is standing on the window he just kicked, now replaced.
  • The surgeon makes remarks about a) how little money Anderton is offering for his surgery, and b) wanting to repay Anderton for putting him in jail years earlier. Yet nothing bad happens to Anderton (at least, not directly because of the surgeon). In fact, the surgeon gives him a vital tool to complete his quest.
  • thestatic writes in: “Anderton uses his real eyes to gain access to the Precrime HQ, even after he’s a wanted fugitive and his clearance should have been revoked. Even if there wasn’t time to revoke his clearance, there’s no reason why Anderton’s clearance hadn’t been revoked before his wife was able to use his eyes to gain access to the Precrime HQ. Also, Anderton uses his eyes to enter the Precog Room when no one at all is supposed to have clearance to enter that room.”

Groovy Quotes

Hineman: If you want your minority report, you’ll have to get it from the most talented of the pre-cogs.
Anderton: Which one’s the most talented?
Hineman: [looks surprised] Why, the female, of course.

Agatha: Mur-der…

Fletcher: Don’t run, John.
Anderton: You don’t have to chase me.
Fletcher: You don’t have to run!
Anderton: Everybody runs, Fletch.

Burgess: Who’s the victim?
Anderton: I’ve never heard of him! But I’m supposed to kill him in less than thirty-six hours.

Agatha: Can you see?

Wally: I like you, Chief, you were always nice to me. So I’ll give you two minutes before I hit the alarm.

Agatha: [to stranger in mall] He knows, don’t go home.

Gideon: You’re part of my flock now, John.

Anderton: These images are going too fast! Try to slow them down!
Riley: How do I slow them down, I should hit her on the head?

Crow: You’re not going to kill me.
Anderton: Goodbye, Crow.

Burgess: Shh! Do you know what I hear? Nothing! No running up the stairs, no hoverships outside, no clickedy-click of spiders, and do you know why? Because right now… the precogs can see nothing!

Henimen: The precogs are never wrong. But sometimes they… disagree.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Blade Runner
  • Total Recall
  • The Fugitive
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1 Comment

  1. For an alternate take on the pre-crime theme, there’s Psycho-Pass, which was released on DVD and Blu-ray a couple of months back. It can especially appealing to those who like the pre-crime concepts of Minority Report but don’t care for the fact that it involves psychics. As well as touching on free will (though in a different way), it also focuses on thoughts about how at what point do computers go from being tools that make life easier to nannies that tell us what to do.

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