Minority Report Review

Posted: August 15, 2014 by moviebuff801 in Barrage of the Blockbusters, moviebuff801's Movie Reviews, Time Capsule Reviews

Release Date: June 21st, 2002

Running Time: 2 hours and 25 minutes

Written by: Scott Frank and Jon Cohen

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Max von Sydow

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

Great science fiction always has the ability to make us ponder about the implications and ideas behind the world it creates while simultaneously entertaining us with all the cool toys inherent. In that regard, Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report is most definitely a piece of great science fiction, brimming with thought-provoking ideas that are infused with intense and exciting action sequences, but most importantly, the film contains a real emotional hook at its center that makes it an even more gripping experience. This is quite frankly a masterwork from Spielberg, who’s certainly no stranger to genre films, but in Minority Report, there’s a clear mindset on display from Spielberg for a desire to elevate the material past its straightforward genre roots and deliver something much more rewarding, and it’s successful. After every re-watch of this movie, it always makes me long for another Spielberg film this great made these days.

Set in the year 2054, Minority Report follows John Anderton (Tom Cruise), chief of the highly controversial Precrime Task Force in Washington, D.C. The Precrime unit’s mandate is simple: to stop crime — specifically murder — before it happens. This is achieved through the use of special individuals known as “PreCogs”, who have the ability to foresee such horrific acts, and it’s said that they’re never wrong. Anderton is an avid supporter of the system, but his faith is tested after he witnesses the latest PreCog vision, which shows Anderton himself carrying out the murder of a man he’s never even met. This supposed hiccup comes at a critical juncture when the PreCrime division is being audited by the watchful Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell), a representative of the U.S. Justice Department, so the government can get a glimpse of the unit’s effectiveness. Of course, Anderton is compelled to go on the run and prove that this is all some kind of elaborate set-up, but in order to do so, he’ll need to do a few questionable things. And one of those involves stealing Agatha (Samantha Morton), one of the PreCogs, so Anderton can find the minority report, i.e. the potential future where a predicted killer could do something different.

On the surface, Minority Report is a set-up for action sequences, chases and opportunities to showcase special effects — all of which the movie has in spades. But the real beauty of this story, and something the brilliant screenplay takes advantage of, is the fact that there’s plenty of room for ideas and themes with intriguing questions and implications to be raised from them. The fact that the film actually treats the audience intelligently when dealing with said themes is refreshing. Obviously, the main idea at the center of this film is the one of free will vs. determinism, with the most pressing question being: are the people being prevented from carrying out murders truly guilty if they were stopped from committing the crime in the first place? In that case, are we controlled by destiny, or does destiny control us? Furthermore, when factoring in the idea of a minority report, how reliable are the visions of the PreCogs if there’s the possibility of another outcome, and is it enough to hang an entire police force on? Any lesser work, or even any lesser filmmaker, might give in to the temptation to provide basic, easy answers, but Spielberg and his team are able to fully recognize all the dramatic potential this scenario has to offer and explore that potential while still providing all of the thrills we come to expect from a movie like this. Spielberg has dabbled quite successfully into sci-fi territory before with films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and Jurassic Park, and Minority Report is yet another example of how the man can combine mainstream entertainment with material of real substance.

But looking at Minority Report just on the basis of its genre trappings alone, it’s still a great film. The tightly-structured screenplay by Scott Frank and Jon Cohen deftly balances philosophy and action, and there’s never a case of there being too much of one or the other. This film is so tightly-structured and paced, in fact, that its running time of 145 minutes really does go by like that. There’s never a moment in the story that’s boring or in any other way not interesting. Whenever the script isn’t giving us an exciting chase, fight or suspenseful cat-and-mouse game, it’s providing interesting character dynamics, histories and interactions that carry surprising emotional weight to them. Minority Report is certainly thoughtful and engaging on its own, yet it thankfully never becomes the overly cerebral science fiction that keeps you at an emotional distance from everything. John Anderton is a tortured man whose torment closely relates to the ideals of Precrime, and to see him fight against a system he so readily supports on average lends the proceedings a more gripping tone than if this story was just being used for entertainment value.

Anderton’s journey is so involving also because of Tom Cruise’s performance, which just might be one of the actor’s best. John Anderton isn’t just another character from the Action Hero Factory for Tom Cruise to play; like I said, he’s a man haunted by the demons of his past, and there’s a certain rawness to Cruise’s performance that really suits the character. Anderton isn’t a man who thinks that a gun is always the easiest solution to a problem, and Cruise is very capable at weaving in emotionality into characters like this that could have easily been walking clichés or cardboard cut-outs of characters. Colin Farrell and Max Von Sydow also turn in strong performances, but the other one that’s really worth singling out here is Samantha Morton, who plays one of the PreCogs named Agatha. As the film goes on, Agatha comes to play a more important part in the story, and the nature of the character requires a certain frailty mixed with a plethora of other emotions, and Morton pretty much hits it out of the park. There’s a scene near the end of the Second Act especially that shows just how good Morton is.

Minority Report is also deeply interesting from a directorial standpoint. First of all, Steven Spielberg gives the whole film a very gritty and grimy aesthetic and feel, despite the futuristic setting. He also employs lots of dark coloring and use of shadows in all the scenes, both to enhance the more realistic/grounded quality he’s going for, and it’s a particularly interesting approach when considering that this society being portrayed is one now free of murder, yet it still looks drained of life in more than one instance. Plus, Spielberg integrates the various special effects in a very fluid fashion that’s never distracting and enhances the experience.

Science fiction has seen a real comeback since the 2000 decade, and Minority Report is one of the best offerings the genre has given us since then. It’s exciting, involving, thought-provoking; basically, it’s the kind of summer blockbuster we so rarely see, which makes it that much more of something to be valued.


NEXT WEEK: James Cameron cannot be stopped.

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