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Minority Report

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Samantha Morton, Max von Sydow, Steve Harris, Peter Stormare, Kathryn Morris, Ramona Badescu, Joel Gretsch

Review by Steve Rhodes
4 stars out of 4

In Steven Spielberg's science fiction thriller, MINORITY REPORT, one of his very best films, Detective John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is on the run. Based on a Philip K. Dick (BLADE RUNNER) short story, the movie concerns the precrime unit of the D.C. police department in the year 2054. John is being setup, but by whom and why?

John, whose job is to arrest and permanently incarcerate would-be murderers, doesn't plan on killing anyone, but the image of a future crime of his comes up on his video screen. Although he can't arrest himself, his fellow cops can, or at least can try hard to.

Using just enough never seen before special effects to dazzle you, but never so many as to get in the way of the storytelling, Spielberg masterfully serves up a cinematic treat that will have you mesmerized from start to finish. Working as both a thriller and a mystery, the movie has all eyes glued to the screen and all brains in overdrive.

There are two Oscar worthy performances in the picture. In addition to Cruise's headline work, Academy Award nominee Samantha Morton (SWEET AND LOWDOWN) plays Agatha, the creepiest of the three "precogs" who float around and prophesy. Living in a pool of water, three near-zombie people transmit nightmarish visions of the future to wall size video screens. The precrime police, using special gloves, navigate their way through a flashing maze of data. When the three precogs agree that a murder is about to be committed, they cause a losing lottery ball to pop out over in the cops' office. This puts the police in gear to arrest the criminal before he kills anyone. The country is about to vote on whether to take this police state system nationwide. Since there hasn't been a murder in six years in D.C., one can guess the outcome without the help of any precogs.

"Ever get any false positives?" Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) wants to know. He's a non-believer who has been sent from the Attorney General's office to investigate whether this precrime system really works without errors, as Director Burgess (Max von Sydow) and company claim. Danny clearly wants to shut the whole operation down and is trying hard to get something he can use against John, its star detective.

Filled with religious metaphors, the story has the room holding the precogs named the temple. A holiest of holies, the room is a sanctuary into which the precrime cops dare not venture. What goes for a jail is watched over by Gideon (Tim Blake Nelson), a pipe organ playing jailer. "Careful chief," Gideon admonishes John when he comes looking for clues about what is going on. "If you dig up the past, all you get is dirty."

The futuristic parts of the picture are only secondary, but they are quite fascinating. Newspapers change in real-time. Holographic ads know the identities of each passerby and interact on a personal level that spammers and telemarketers could only dream of. Privacy advocates will find the movie one long cautionary tale, as the government knows just about every move you make. And speaking of moves, Spielberg will have you jumping in your seats at least a half dozen times. Agatha, in particular, is the scariest character this side of a horror movie.

Minority Report is a nearly flawless film, but it does avoid the most obvious question. It leads us down a path in which we are convinced that the precrime unit is one of humanity's worst ideas ever because of its potential for mistakes. It doesn't seem to believe that we'll ever think about a simple question of statistics. If you were absolutely certain that you could save the lives of thousands of murder victims, would you be willing to let a few innocents be imprisoned forever by mistake? This carefully avoided question isn't so simple. Nevertheless, the film itself is quite simply great.

MINORITY REPORT runs 2:25. It is rated PG-13 for "violence, brief language, some sexuality and drug content" and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.

My son Jeffrey, age 13, gave it a full ****. His long list of things he loved about it included the acting, the plot idea, the pacing and the little bits of humor. He mentioned that he liked the way that the special effects were so impressive yet never overdone.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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