Queued Up #3: Minority Report (2002)

Queued Up blog posts are movie reviews of films that I watch through Netflix DVD Home Delivery or on Netflix Watch Instantly. Minority Report is available through Netflix DVD Home Delivery.

Minority Report. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Dreamworks and 20th Century Fox, 2002. 145 mins.

From 2001 to 2005 Steven Spielberg directed three science-fiction films all based on decades old pieces of literature. 2001’s  A.I. Artificial Intelligence, a film based on the 1969 Brian Aldiss short story “Summer-Toys Last All Summer Long” dealing with intelligent technologies and the questions of humanity which arise. 2005’s War of the Worlds, based on the classic 1898 science-fiction novel of the same name by H.G. Wells, which tells the story of  an alien invasion. And 2002’s Minority Report, based on the 1956 Phillip K. Dick short story “The Minority Report”. A span of five years that calls back to his early classic sci-fi films, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial (1982) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), all three films received mostly positive responses with Minority Report holding the high-water mark.

Minority Report (2002) Dir. Steven Spielberg

In the year of 2054 John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is the chief officer of the Washington D.C. PreCrime police department. A highly successful task force that uses the precognition of three mutated human oracles to stop murder. For six years the D.C. area has been murder-free and the rest of the nation is looking to adopt the system. Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) is brought in by the Department of Justice to find potential flaws in the system before PreCrime goes national.

Anderton, while being an extremely successful PreCrime officer (as seen from the initial pre-murder investigation scene to open the film), is haunted by the disappearance of his young child Sean, which has led to the collapse of his marriage and his drug addiction. When the “precogs” predict that Anderton is going to murder Leo Crowe (Mike Binder), a man that he does not know in 36 hours, Anderton goes on the run in the attempt to prove that he has been set up by Witwer and to prove that he is not a murderer.

Early on in the film Anderton meets with a drug dealer who mysteriously says, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Prefacing the film with this adage it is clear that Anderton is the one-eyed man and he must show everyone what they are blind towards. Before his new eyes can fully heal he must take off his bandages from one eye to avoid detection from the PreCrime’s spider droids. (Exposing this eye to the light is supposed to blind it, or so says Anderton’s sketchy surgeon. Although this does not manifest itself in the film his transformation into the one-eyed man of the adage is unavoidable.) The poster above is a great illustration of this.

An obvious question this film presents is whether the people of this future still have free will. The countless prisoners that have been put away by Anderton never had the chance to decide whether or not to kill. But Agatha, the precog-iest of the precogs, continually says that “you have a choice.” When the ultimate decision has to be made by Anderton, he rejects the idea of predetermination brought on by PreCrime. In contrast, Crow’s decision to bring about his own demise in spite of Anderton’s choice, exemplifies the lack of freedom that Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow), the director of PreCrime, introduces to this society. Crow’s only choice to provide for his family is to go through with Burgess’ plan, and kill himself.

The public holds a seemingly naive stance towards PreCrime. The only visible objectors towards the system are Witwer and the people convicted of pre-murder (And Witwer seems to be convinced of the system soon after the start of the film). PreCrime presents clear ethical and moral dilemmas, especially concerning religion, that seem to be discarded by everyone involved. (Maybe society has gotten over these in the six years that it has been in place? But the nation hasn’t accepted it yet. So…) The god-like status of the precogs, and the loss of free will from PreCrime, put this system in conflict with religious belief. While this theme is largely forgotten after the first act, the overtones run throughout the film.

One of the aspects of Minority Report that needs to be commended is the futuristic world that Spielberg presents. Seemingly a cross between the worlds of George Orwell’s 1984 and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Spielberg litters each frame with interesting and conceivable technology, from holograms to interactive advertising and self-piloting cars to sound wave guns. The world is highly realized and is one of the main reasons to watch the film.

Th biggest hole in Minority Report is the plot point that bring about the conflict. Although Anderton has discovered the phenomenon of precogs echoing previous murders, and is on his way to understanding the concept of a minority report, the final two acts of the film do not happen unless Anderton is accused of pre-murder. The murder of Leo Crow is dependent on everything that happens up to that point after Anderton sees his name on the brown wooden ball. If this was a set-up how is the audience supposed to believe that Burgess put these things into motion. If Anderton never saw the precog images how would the rest of the movie take place. Anderton doesn’t end up at the apartment building on purpose.  In additoin to that, the brown ball is a premeditated ball, so we are to assume that Anderton  is going to plan on killing Crow at some point, but that doesn’t happen. He stumbles upon Crow and saying that he would kill the man who harmed his son does not sound like premeditation to me.

Of course if you were to look into the logistics of how the precognition system works you would find large holes. The worst of all might be the justification for why the precogs can not detect other of crime. (Queue quote that means absolutely nothing…)  Overall, Minority Report is an enjoyable action science fiction film that largely held my interest through the well-realized world that Spielberg created. The acting is serviceable and the action scenes are hit-and-miss (the fist-fight scene between Farrell and Cruise reminded me of a 1950s brawl you might see in Back to the Future). 

7 out of 10 stars – ★★★★★★★

“My father once told me, ‘We don’t choose the things we believe in; they choose us.'” – Lamar Burgess


Other Observations:

♦ While his eyes are healing “Cops” is showing on the wall screen. 2054 and that show is still on the air! What a legacy.

♦The spider droid scene in the shanty apartment building shot from overhead was by far and away the most arresting of the film for me.


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