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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 Jerry Saravia
3 stars out of 4

Something has happened to Steven Spielberg - he has been haunted by the ghost of Stanley Kubrick. The warm, sensitive, sentimental Spielberg is trying to tap into the darker recesses of fables and science-fiction stories. After last year's fabulous "A.I.," itself based on ideas by Kubrick, Spielberg is aiming for something more ominous and foreboding, and he basically succeeds with his new science-fiction dazzler, "Minority Report."

Cropped-haired Tom Cruise stars as John Anderton, the chief of Pre-Crime, an organization in Washington, D.C. that prevents actual crimes from happening. They manage this feat with the use of Pre-Cogs, precognitive humans who lie in a water tank and are tapped into some video computer that shows their premonitions of upcoming crimes, mostly homicides. When the main Pre-Cog, Agatha (Samantha Morton), the strongest of the three Pre-Cogs, sees a vision, a red ball is unleashed through some tubes with the name of the murderer. John's job is to use a high-tech system using motion control to find where the murderer will commit the crime. Along with his compatriots, they travel to the destination on a ship and prevent the murder within seconds. Pre-crime is a solid, workable system that has prevented crimes from taking place in almost six years (only, of course, in D.C.). The bureau director of this organization, Burgess (Max Von Sydow), is facing a crucial election year where Pre-Crime has been under total scrutiny. Enter the cynical bureacrat from the Justice Department, Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell), who questions the validity of Pre-Crime, and is sure that flaws must exist in this system. Before you know it, John Anderton is in hot water when he discovers that he will commit murder himself.

Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, "Minority Report" has a lot of story to work with, and it helps that Cruise is cast as the hot-blooded, doped-up John, facing his own crisis over the loss of his son. Cruise makes John the hero to root for in a world that is grayish and washed-out, thanks to the dazzling cinematography by Spielberg regular Janusz Kaminski. This world is no picnic and technology has taken precendence over personal privacy. The year is 2054 and we see souped-up Lexus cars that can travel on ramps alongside the surfaces of buildings, plants that move and can poison intruders in private homes, eye scanners at every single street corner, advertisements that salute you particularly at Gap stores, newspapers that have rapidly changing images, spider-like robots that search for murder suspects, and so on. It is a world as eerily prescient as the world shown in "Blade Runner," and now that the FBI can scan library records of just about anyone, our universe is becoming just as Orwellian as ever.

The aspects of Pre-Crime are fascinating, particularly the nature of it and if any flaws exist in a supposedly foolproof system. That is the function of the Danny Witwer character, questioning if any crime would have ever existed and if the Pre-Cogs could ever have been wrong in their assertions and visions. What if a homicide that took place was justifiable in some way? What about self-defense? What about a crime that leads to some positive consequences? The morality at stake of preventing crimes that may happen in the future is frightening if you consider the consequences. And it comes out of John's character who may commit a murder, but to whom and why? Spielberg, however, is not as willing to plunge deeply with such questions. Despite working with Kubrick's ideas in "A.I." and fusing a questionable future for a child robot, Spielberg brings us close to the immorality of Pre-Crime but refuses to stick with the ideas. It is like watching a magician who speaks of magic tricks yet never actually performs them. This is no surprise coming from the eternal optimist who believes that hope will always prevail. Kubrick or, for that matter, Ridley Scott might have stuck with the phase that is set in motion because they see that darkness sometimes prevails, and the consequences of real-life crimes sometimes prevents others from seeing the wrongdoing ahead of time. The future is never that bright in movies, so the last thing I expect is a happy ending.

"Minority Report" is a stunning achievement in special-effects and production design, and Cruise fires his acting missiles with acute timing and perfect pitch. I like some of the dark humor in the film and the Kubrickian homages, and the film does have a spellbinding look to it - it is like a darkly humorous, sci-fi noir comedy. But it also goes on too long just when it appears it might have ended (a common Spielberg fallacy) and the last section in the film is overwrought and overdone. Still, it is quite a marvel of a film and the ironic look into the future of invasion of privacy is haunting.

Copyright 2002 Jerry Saravia

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