U.S. Release Date:
June 21, 2002
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Scott Frank
Producer: Gerald R. Molen
Composer: John Williams
Cast: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow, Neal McDonough, Samantha Morton, Tim Blake Nelson
Running Time: 2 hours and 24 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violence, brief language, some sexuality and drug content)
It is 2054 and murder has become a thing of the past in Washington, D.C., thanks to the capital's Precrime police bureau, which is ending its preliminary six-year pilot phase and is awaiting the expansion of the program to the rest of the country. The unit is headed by veteran police captain John Anderton (Tom Cruise) and works like a well-oiled machine waiting for its three "pre-cogs" Agatha, Arthur, and Dashiell — a nod to authors Christie, Doyle, and Hammett — to envision a murder and alert the squad which then rushes to the scene of the impending crime, stops it, and places the would-be perpetrator in eternal suspended animation. The system, everyone agrees, is "perfect." At least until Anderton is framed for a future crime and must evade his own police unit and stop himself from committing the crime.
At the outset, Minority Report, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick and directed by Steven Spielberg, promises to mine some deep subject matter, to wit do we possess free will or are we predestined to our fate? This is the gist of an early scene between Anderton and Department of Justice official Ed Witwer (Colin Farrell) who seem to be natural antagonists. Anderton believes in Precrime with the same fervor Witwer apparently believes in God and it would have been interesting to see that conflict played out since both characters believe in justice, but are separated philosophically as to how it is to be obtained. But the determinism versus free will theme is really a MacGuffin as the film quickly mutates into a meditation on the importance of family, a recurring theme in Spielberg's films of late.
Minority Report is a great looking film featuring a District of Columbia that is at once futuristic and eerily familiar. The special effects don't bog down the story. The acting is uniformly good and the pacing — until the last 20 minutes when it turns into a dreadful science fiction version of The Fugitive — is fairly brisk.
The problem with Minority Report is the thematic switcheroo that Spielberg pulls after the first reel, focusing on Anderton's guilt over the kidnapping and presumed murder of his son — which occurred before Precrime was instituted — and using the murder plot and the search for the titular minority report as a vehicle for Anderton to reclaim his family first in surrogate form and then in reality. This makes the film feel unfocused and eliminates much of the dramatic tension in a number of the key scenes, particularly one in which Anderton must evade his squad while blind. Spielberg also includes a number of "comedic" touches, which are out of place and fall flat. As for the obvious theme of free will versus determinism, Spielberg doesn't take a stand. He has it both ways. And in a piece of art that's equivalent, at the very least, to petty larceny.
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