21 June 2002 | argv
Action/thriller with Signature Highlights from Spielberg to Cruise
Minority Report is the latest film from Stephen Spielberg that stars Tom Cruise as a cop from the year 2054, who works in the pre-crime division of the Washington D.C police department. The division's ability to stop murders before they happen is based on the psychic ability of three people who were mutant byproducts of a failed genetic program designed to help babies born from drug-dependent mothers. Cruise's character, John Anderton, is motivated by the loss of his own son, who was abducted and murdered six years earlier. Accordingly, he's a strong supporter of the controversial program, whose opponents feel it could potentially make an error and people might be wrongfully convicted, if not potentially rehabilitated. That action begins when Anderton is identified as a future killer, and he hits the road running. This may sound a little like The Fugitive, but in this case, you don't know if the man on the run is--or, rather, will be--guilty.
Based on a short story by futurist Phillip K. Dick, author of Blade Runner, the atmosphere of a dark world with high technology having gotten out of hand, almost as though it snuck up on us without our knowing, remains the theme. To remind us that we aren't controlled by technology, but are nonetheless overrun by it, there are frequent references to current-day familiarities, such as department stores and restaurants, such as The Gap and McDonalds, where impressively entertaining high-tech mass marketing gadgets know what you've purchased before and offer new suggestions for consideration. (Sounds like a visit to amazon.com?) Spielberg lightens up the tone with his signature wit and humorous quips and visuals now and then, as opposed to Ridley Scott's more serious and consistently dark visualization portrayed in Blade Runner.
As a plotline, Minority Report is intelligent, has a good consistent flow, isn't always predictable (at least not that long before it happens), has many twists and turns with legitimate dead-ends, and above all, tells a plausible story (even if the basic premise itself requires considerable suspension of disbelief). As Anderton begins to unravel the true story about the corruption behind the pre-crime program, he is lead even further towards his destination as predicted by the `pre-cognitives' who predicted his crime. To tell any more of the story would disclose too much; besides, it isn't necessary. You know all you need to know here.
The best parts of the movie are so good from the high-tech special effects to the light-hearted humorous moments to the good, steady flow of the action and plotline that the problems with the film are easily forgiven. That said, my main gripe is the presumption that, in the future, anyone convicted of a crime before it happens is immediately sent to a state of suspended animation, an alternative form of the death penalty. This is obviously one of the main sources of controversy within the storyline, but anyone can see that, in almost all cases, the predicted murders were not premeditated, if not potentially accidental, in which case, psychological counseling and some form of probation would be enough. There's nothing to suggest in the film that the context is a police state, which would allow the premise to make sense. Yet, so much of the movie is based on this premise, that may be bothersome to the discerning viewer. There are many such similar oversimplifications, each of which could be quite easily solved with a minor change or a quick dialog line or two, hence a mild sense of sloppiness in direction.
Still, in the end, these didn't bother me that much. I still had a great time, and enjoyed it as the frivolous and wonderfully playful action/thriller it was intended to be.