Minority Report Review
It's the summer, and it's Spielberg's turn to throw in his silly season movie after Attack Of The Clones and Spider-Man cleaned up at the box office. With Minority Report, Spielberg shows he can cope with blockbusters as well as the next A-list director, this time choosing Philip K. Dick rather than Brian Aldiss for a sci-fi adaptation. John Anderton (Tom Cruise), a detective working in the Justice Department in the year 2054. Anderton leads the Pre-Crime Unit, in which three psychics predict crimes that haven't happened yet, and criminals are arrested before they commit their crimes. However, Anderton is shocked to learn that in thirty-six hours he will be caught murdering a man he has never met. Rather than be caught, Anderton escapes from his own crime unit and races against time in order to establish just what will happen to him in the immediate future.
Minority Report is a film that the masses will love and fans will champion as Spielberg's return to form. However, it lacks the beauty of his last effort A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and is forever torn between deciding whether it wants to be an action-thriller or a science-fiction-ethics tale. If anything, it's the Spielberg film that feels the least 'Spielberg-like', save for the obligatory stunning visual effects sequences. It's almost as if Spielberg is just earning his paycheck as the 'director for hire', throwing as many Kubrick and Hitchcock homages as he can manage without throwing in any of his own.
Despite these misgivings, Minority Report really is a well-made effort, and the initial buzz suggests the film to be extremely successful on both sides of the pond. It's just that any fan of science-fiction will have too many theories concerning the plot improbabilities in the film to ever enjoy the ride Spielberg takes you on. Many paradoxes are thrown up that are brushed over without proper explanation, and rather than tackle the morality/ethical issues the film is exploring Spielberg all too often takes the alternative route of the conventional thriller. He cops out to the mainstream rather than confront any issues head on. Rather than tell us a story of a future society in which crime is near on impossible to commit, Minority Report chooses instead to tell us the story of one man caught up in this society, and leaves out far juicier elements that could have made captivating entertainment. Also, without ruining the ending and the final 'twists-and-turns', you could probably write a whole book about whether such a conclusion could happen in the first place, and if it does happen, you would then question the point of such a conclusion when tracing events back to the beginning of the film. The film seems to start off by arguing that the future is the only pre-determined notion, as if it is the beginning of the timeline and we are working in reverse. However, it negates this concept by the film's final act, and almost ties itself in knots.
This sort of plot envelope always blows the mind of many a film geek fan, but give the film a couple of years and Minority Report will be as dated and charm-less as a film such as The Matrix. Both films, in their desire to appeal solely to a mass market of the time they were released, have almost forgotten how to cater for future audiences at a time when visual effects have been advanced further. Maybe this is the ultimate problem with Minority Report, in that there is actually nothing that blows away the audience, as long as they are well versed in classic cinema and classic sci-fi. Most of the plot elements feel like cut-and-pastes of other genres, and the 'whodunnit' plot strands are both predictable and unoriginal. There are times when the film feels like the baby born out of a unison between North By Northwest and A Clockwork Orange. Even John Williams' score seems to want to borrow heavily from Bernard Herrmann on occasions; especially when Cruise's character slots into the 'wrong-man-accused' character mould. Maybe someone like Verhoeven could have extracted a satirical bite from the film that Spielberg so lacks. Even further, it's surprising the Dutchman didn't direct the film considering his frequent partner-in-crime Jan De Bont was one of the film's producers.
Cruise, Sydow, Farrell, Morton and co all deliver their lines on the nail and suit the film well, but their characters are stripped to mundane two-dimensional levels, and they fail to inject any colour into the bleached-out world in which they exist. The futuristic/retro world itself of Minority Report is probably the film's biggest plus point, because of the idea that as the future becomes planned and predestined, the past is therefore the most exciting place to revisit in terms of style and innovation. A control of the future is a perfect factor for a postmodern society, and this is another facet barely touched upon by Spielberg in his dash for box office glory.
To conclude, Minority Report is great popcorn fun but nothing else. It flirts with intelligence but never engages, and it demonstrates that Spielberg is clearly having an identity crisis since his pal Kubrick kicked the bucket. The film is large, expensive mainstream fun, but nothing of the masterpiece many of you are citing it to be.
And another thing, how many epilogues does Spielberg want to tack onto his films nowadays? There are at least two points in which Minority Report could have happily finished, but instead it drags the film out to lengthy proportions, rather than maintaining a slick and concise conclusion. It seems that given a choice between a downbeat and an upbeat ending, Spielberg decision making is almost on autopilot.