Minority Report - 2002

Minority Report - Released June 21, 2002. Directed by Steven Spielberg

The conflict for star Tom Cruise (as Police Chief Anderton) is an American one, and it's as old as the Pilgrims: predestination versus free will. In Minority Report "criminals" are being locked up one after another as murder rates drop to a fraction, and in a city (the movie primarily takes place in Washington DC) seeking perfection, this seems like a perfect crime system. It is also the only thing in Anderton's life that makes sense for him, because in the recent past he lost a child to an abduction, which consequently destroyed his marriage, and led to a rather poorly hidden evening drug addiction. But during the day when it comes to putting away pre-criminals, he's completely focused, and his past trauma makes him the poster employee for this unique system which is in a trial period in the nation's capitol.

Despite the rough situations of the story, Spielberg and Cruise deposit a lot of goofy comedy down under the harsh violence of this often-times grim future place, and Spielberg use 2/3rds of the film creating a delicate balancing between these two natures of the story, and during that time it works in a splendid way..

But, in the last section, following a climatic moment when Tom Cruise's character must face whether he will actually perform a predicted murder which has made him a fugitive from the very force he formerly led, the movie moves off of the wonder of its inventive sci-fi future and the hilarious underlying slapstick and sight gags Spielberg has assembled and passes into straight melodrama. At that point, it never regains the level of cleverness it had and the film relegates the cast and story (screenplay by Scott Frank and Jon Cohen, from a Philip K Dick short story) into a more mundane detective-and-mystery twist ending. Well, it's a perfectly good series of twists and turns that would service for a nice TV detective program, but it clashes with the grace (and structure) of what came prior.

And it seems to be entirely unnecessary, since who did what to who, and when, with the accompanying unraveling of corruption and perfidy revealed in this last section of the movie could just as easily have been revealed earlier in the tale, as long as it had come before the climatic moment when Police Chief John Anderton faces down a man he had incomprehensively been predicted to kill. The "pre-cogs" (three floating super-sensitive humans that have a mutated power to dream of real murders that happen in the future) have said Anderton will kill, and the movie tells us they are never wrong. When Anderton comes to his moment and decides, everything that comes afterward is anti-climatic.

Nothing in the end section, including the "official" climax between Anderton and Pre-Crime's inventor (Director Lamar Burgess, played by Max Von Sydow) matches the intensity of what leads up to Anderton's crisis of finding himself holding a gun and ready to kill someone he just minutes previously had never even met before, an event flying in the face of everything he is supposed to uphold and believe in.

The film is loaded with technological ideas, and it shows a future in which targeted comsumer-ads (tailored exactly for an individual) are a plague, something which is in the process of rapid development currently in the real world.

Spielberg is supposed to have consulted scientists and inventors for ideas about how future-tech would evolve, and the way in which computers are shown in Minority Report as being generally touch-activated has certainly come to pass.

Spielberg always seems to have a flawless craftsmanship to his films, and that's certainly the case here on Minority Report, unfortunately iffy story handling mars the last section of an otherwise excellently well-done film.

Original Page December 4, 2016

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