|You Know Its the Future Because There Are Jetpacks|
The review below was written by a Staff Member
Four out of the Seven movies Steven Spielberg has released since the turn of the Millennium have been science-fiction movies. Of course, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is included. Unfortunately, they have been sort of mediocre. Minority Report was the second in this series. While it attempts to do an admirable job of establishing the atmosphere of a mysterious near future, the story stumbles over itself and Tom Cruise turns in another one of his manic, shouty performances. Still, it raises important questions in an interesting way.
Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, Minority Report tells the tale of a police force that prevents murders by using psychics to predict crime. It's called Pre-Crime. Specifically, the movie focuses on Chief John Anderton of Pre-Crime (Tom Cruise). He believes he has been wrongly accused of a future murder and sets off to clear his name. Old friends become adversaries as he uncovers a series of dangerous secrets.
If that sounded like a good plot to a short story, it probably was. Though expanded to two and a half hours, the plot collapses under its own weight. It is filled with time worn characters: the cop with the haunted past, the investigator who threatens everything, and the good guy gone bad. Spielberg with screenwriters Scott Frank and John Cohen fill out the story with set pieces meant to establish the technological world of Pre-Crime.
Spielberg's films are typically detailed with many small touches that bring character to the environment. In E.T., he brought us Suburbia through a child's eyes. In the original Indiana Jones trilogy, he painted the world of a 1930s Republic Serial. These examples had subtle pieces to set the mood. Minority Report has loud or blatant set pieces including a mag-lev car chase, hover-copters, jet packs, eye-reading advertisements, black market organ transplants, and future drugs. Prisoners are placed in a honeycomb of stasis chambers while the paraplegic jailer plays a pipe organ. Instead of using a TASER to incapacitate a suspect, you touch them with a cattle prod that makes them vomit. Besides the fact this would be incredibly ineffective (a drunk vomits all the time and can still remain a threat), the movie portrays its use over and over and over in a jet pack fight sequence. Did I mention jet packs? Yes. The future has jet packs. These parts of the movie scream "IT'S THE FUTURE! LOOK AT HOW
COOL AND TERRIBLE THINGS MAY BECOME!"
The most blatant usage of movie-future-self-awareness is the way murder information is transmitted. When the psychics foresee a murder, lasers carve wooden balls with the victim's and murderer's names on them. If time is a crucial element, why do you have time to wait for wooden balls to be carved? There is absolutely no explanation for this in the movie other than it looks cool.
The movie isn't horrible. In fact, it leans towards the good side of mediocre. It analyzes philosophical and Constitutional issues in action movie form. Any civics class would benefit from having Sylvester Stallone or any other action hero blasting his or her way through the lessons. In an immediately post-9/11 world, the movie questioned the wisdom of trading freedom for security. When you trade basic freedoms for freedom from fear, you end up with a different kind of fear.
Another positive point is Max von Sydow as Lamar Burgess. Through the twists and turns of the plot, he brings dignity masking a variety of emotions. This portrayal fits his character perfectly. He is at once conniving, bloodthirsty, afraid, guilt-ridden, and a frail, defeated old man. Would you expect anything less from Ming the Merciless?
I liked this movie. There were elements that detracted from the experience, but at its core it was a fun action movie that was well made. Cinematography and score were top notch, the philosophical portions were great, and some performances were superb (Tom Cruise is incapable of whispering). Minority Report was not one of Spielberg's best. It says something that when Spielberg falters, it's still good. Not gold, but good.
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