Film Reviews


By • Jun 21st, 2002 •

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This is finally Spielberg stripped of sentimentality and pulsating with a cruel edge. Who
would have thought “Saint Steven,” as the New York Sunday Times Magazine once anointed him, was capable of invoking such a complex, morally ambiguous premise and then compounding it with philosophical dread?

The year is 2054 and John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is a Washington, D.C. cop who has been working for six years with a highly specialized unit called Precrime. Operating solely on the dreams of three psychics (“precogs”), dominated by the strongest one, a female named Agatha (Samantha Morton), the unit tracks down perpetrators before they can commit, or even think about committing, violent crimes. The fate of these pre-criminals is immediately sealed and they are quickly relegated to live the rest of their lives entombed in a life-support chamber. Thousands have been thus sentenced.

The arrival of Witwer (Colin Farrell), the federal government’s man in charge of evaluating Precrime’s expansion as a national law enforcement tool, places its future in jeopardy. The head of Precrime, Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow), warns Anderton not to trust Witwer, who seems intent on finding the flaw in the system. Anderton is highly trained and confident of Precrime’s record and he’s vengeful – his six year-old son was kidnapped while in his care. Precrime would have prevented his son’s death. He’s haunted by the fact that he’s guilty – of leaving his son momentarily unattended. (Again, Spielberg returns to the primary theme of a lost child that drives the story and gives it emotional weight).

Witwer is assured that the precogs never miss. The visionary methodology, which can see a murder as far as two weeks before it would happen, is considered foolproof. All goes as planned until Anderton is targeted as a near-future killer. When he sees the dream sequences flashing on a screen and is identified as a future killer, he runs. He doesn’t know the man who is his intended victim.

Precogs never fail and perpetrators always deny they will kill. Anderton will kill and now he must know why or, the only possible explanation he can think of, why he is being set up. He locates the woman who “created” the precogs and she tells him that sometimes the precogs are wrong. He must find the Minority Report that secretly keeps track of the wrong visions. It is stored within Agatha. Anderton’s moral ground is shaken – some of the perpetrators he arrested may have been innocent.

Colin Farrell is a devastating foil for Cruise with his jet-black hair, black, bushy eyebrows, and mustache that intentionally emphasize his angular resolve. He stands too close to Cruise in their scenes together telegraphing rivalry and homoerotic menace. Cruise, finally graduating to a mature and emotionally muscular role, has exactly the right tone. Even when he cries, it’s fueled with rage and regret.

There are so many things in MINORITY REPORT that patently proclaim: This can not
possibly be a Spielberg movie – couples argue violently, people are on toilets, streets and
apartments are filthy, there’s sex, Anderton is addicted to illegal drugs, and people hate each other. The only cute thing in the film is a painful memory Anderton has of kissing his son’s forehead before he disappeared.

Importantly, Spielberg got the look right this time. The dramatic force underlying MINORITY REPORT shows a sophisticated maturity that draws heavily on the dank, futuristic emptiness of BLADE RUNNER coupled with an effective Hitchcockian plot. The action sequences are dazzling, the fight scenes brutal, and one long scene, involving eyeballs, unwatchable.

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