Minority Report

Imagine a not-so-distant future where retina scans turn video billboards into personal advertisements. Where streamlined vehicles careen down a programmed highway in the sky, leaving the occupants free to do whatever they please. Where police can predict when a murder will take place and stop the crime before it happens.

Steven Spielberg brings that world vividly to life in “Minority Report,” a frightening cautionary tale about corporate greed and personal gain. Even though “Minority Report,” Spielberg’s second-in-a-row peek into our bleak future, is a tad long, it’s also major, in-your-face entertainment featuring a heroic, classic Hitchcock hero in Tom Cruise.

Cruise is exhilarating as Paul Anderton, Chief of Pre-Crime, a Washington D.C. crime unit that relies on visions of three psychics called “Pre-Cogs” to predict when a murder will take place so they can stop the killer dead in their tracks. On the force since his son mysteriously vanished six years earlier, Anderton buries himself in his job. His wife has left him, and all that he has to hold on to are holograms of his son.

As an actor, Cruise is always effective, but he really brings the determination, pain and anguish of Anderton to life. Anderton is driven by an inner rage, and Cruise is at his best peeling away those layers until we see what he feels. Never have Cruise’s piercing eyes been put to better use than here, playing a man who has been framed by the very system he works so diligently to uphold. Even though we know very little about him at the start, we immediately embrace Anderton and hold our breath and grip our armrests when he gets into trouble.

Based on a short story by author Philip K. Dick, “Minority Report” looks like and shares familiar similarities with other science-fiction film, but it’s the hard-driven screenplay by Scott Frank and newcomer Jon Cohen, the vigorous cinematography of Janusz Kaminski, and Spielberg’s gift for creating breathtaking action that allows the film to create an identity all its own.

Set in the year 2054, “Minority Report” wastes no time setting up the premise. We watch with intense interest as the three “Pre-Cogs” Agatha (Samantha Morton), Arthur and Dashiell receive images of an upcoming murder. The images become evidence of the crime, and a machine that can only be described as a life and death lottery dispenses balls with the names of the killer and victim.

After Anderton and his team apprehend the future killer, the suspect is locked into a state of suspended animation and deposited in a glistening steel and glass storage facility watched over by the eccentric Gideon (Tim Blake Nelson). Even though Director Lamar Burgess (Max Von Sydow) insists that the system is flawless, Anderton and his team find themselves being investigated by FBI agent Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell), who isn’t so sure.

Anderton and Witwer immediately draw a line in the sand, one that becomes blurred when Anderton is prophesied by the “Pre-Cogs” as a future killer. With only 36 hours to prove his innocence, Anderton finds himself a fugitive, a futuristic Richard Kimball.

Films like “Blade Runner” (also based on a Dick novel), “The Fugitive” and even Spielberg’s “Artificial Intelligence” are basically chase films, where characters find themselves always trying to stay one step ahead of their pursuers. The formula works, but only in moderation. Audiences can only take so many close calls and false endings before they become bored.

“Minority Report” runs fifteen minutes too long, just enough time for Spielberg to conveniently tie up all the loose ends and leave us with a happy ending. With a little trimming, “Minority Report” would be a great film.

There isn’t a bad performance in the film. Irish actor Colin Farrell is strong as the shady Witwer, whose ambiguity leaves us with a restless, unknowing feeling. Samantha Morton, so wonderful as the silent heroine in “Sweet and Lowdown,” is exceptional as Agatha, the leader of the “Pre- Cogs.” Morton easily convinces us that Agatha not only has special powers, but is fully capable of exercising them. It’s a eerie, sympathetic performance.

Sydow is appropriately fatherly as Anderton’s superior, while the delightful Lois Smith and the equally engaging Peter Stormare fill the screen with colorful performances as two of Anderton’s helpful encounters.

John Williams contributes a rousing score, while director of photography Janusz Kaminski captures Alex McDowell’s amazing steely blue production design with a shaky look that makes the action scenes even more realistic.

Filled with memorable characters, smart dialogue, breakneck action, and plenty of invention (the retina scanning spiders are great), “Minority Report” should satisfy most tastes.

MIND GAMESSpielberg reports on a frightening not-so-distant future


Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Max Von Sydow, Lois Smith, Peter Stormare, Tim Blake Nelson, Kathryn Morris, Mike Binder, Jessica Harper. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Rated PG-13. 147 Minutes.


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