Minority Report (2002)Rated PG-13 for violence, brief language, some sexuality and drug content.
Starring Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Peter Stormare, Max von Sydow.
LVJeff's Rating: 10/10
Photo ©20th Century Fox. All rights reserved.
Early on in Minority Report, Tom Cruise's character, John Anderton, stands before a clear pane, directing a whirlwind of images swooshing to-and-fro on the glass, his arms raised and and his hands and fingers motioning in staccato rhythms the way a conductor would during a performance with his orchestra. As classical music plays in the background, Anderton controls the array of fuzzy video puzzle pieces with confidence, never missing a beat, always aware of what it is that he sees before him and knowing the best way to process it.
That might as well have been a description of director Steven Spielberg at work. He is the maestro, creating a solid, cohesive blend of elements we movie-lovers know will contribute to a great film. Strong sci-fi themes? Check. Twisting-and-turning mystery? Check. Disturbing noir elements? Check. Great action/chase sequences? Check. A perfect usage of special effects that puts Attack of the Clones to shame? Check. A storyline for a thinking audience? Check. 2 1/2 hours of solid, grab-you-by-the-eyes cinematography? Check!
How can a cocktail of so many ingredients come out so well? It helps that Spielberg has an intriguing premise (from a short story by Philip K. Dick) to start with: in the near-future, Washington D.C. has been implementing a system that predicts murders before they happen, and a "Pre-Crime" police unit works to prevent them. An investigator, Detective Ed Witwer (Colin Farrell), questions the airtightness of this project before plans to implement it nationwide go into effect. That it is effective is not the issue in doubt -- the murder rate has dropped to zero in the U.S. capitol. Witwer wants to know if there are flaws; more specifically, can the system be misused by the human beings who run it?
John Anderton, the lead enforcement officer of Pre-Crime, is about to find out the hard way. Shortly after Witwer's first visit, the psychics from whom the predictions are drawn envision a new murder -- by the hands of Anderton himself. Anderton is incredulous -- he doesn't even recognize the name of his supposed victim -- and soon he is on the run to find out if he has indeed been set-up as a way of exposing a flaw in their otherwise perfect experiment.
Now cue the spectacular action sequences that are pure imagination beautifully realized. A car chase partially takes place on a freeway on which the vehicles at times travel 90 degrees vertically, with Anderton leaping from car to car. He also tangles with rocket-backpack-equipped officers. A set-piece in a factory features a gun that knocks the wind out of its victims and a fistfight on an assembly line (did Spielberg know he would be answering a similar scene by George Lucas this year?). The movie makes the technology in this future world not only seem exciting but also tangible. It's an inventor's delight.
Yet, those wondrous thrill-ride scenes just scratch the surface of Minority Report. This movie is filled with memorable moments, numerous eccentric characters, and dark, twisted events. It features ethical and moral dilemmas, scenes of powerful emotion, and one of moviedom's coolest hide-and-seek escape sequences (it's the one with the balloons), deftly belnding humor and suspense. All of this is filmed with a whitewashed look that emphasizes filtered light, whether from lamps or the sun. It gives the movie a hazy feel as if it is a dream -- or, indeed, a future -- just outside our grasp. Spielberg has created a no-less-effectively-creepy noir that uses light instead of shadow, fitting for a story in which the protagonist is an optimist who wants to believe in the system as opposed to film noir's usual hard-boiled, cynical hero. Film blanc, anyone?
Forgive me if I've been making the movie sound like all technique. That would be wrong because the thematic material here is compelling. It tackles the struggles between choice and destiny; the instinct for survival and sound human reasoning; doing the right thing and doing the passionate thing; running from pain and coping with pain. It also pits the insecurity of knowing there is potential danger to many people against the security of danger that is nullified at the cost of the freedom and rights of a few. And while the movie picks a side to win in each of these struggles, the viewers are left to decide whether or not they feel good about the events that transpire.
Anderton repeats the sentence, "Everybody runs," throughout the movie, making it his mantra against the impossible odds of escaping his predicament with his life as he knows it intact. With all the parts of Minority Report coming together seamlessly against the impossible odds facing a movie so ambitious in scope, so packed to the gills with juicy movie ingredients, I can hear Maestro Spielberg saying, "Everything fits."
©Jeffrey Chen, Jun. 22, 2002