Minority Report


Steven Spielberg, for a good chunk of his career, was the blockbuster king. If a genre busting, box office exploding, cinematic phenomenon appeared during the late 70’s or the entirety of the 80’s, chances are Spielberg had his name attached to it somewhere and movies such as Jaws, E.T. and Raiders Of The Lost Ark became touchstones of genre filmmaking. But what do you do once you’ve left that world behind? After maturing on from making movies about kindly aliens and killer sharks and then going on to craft films about harrowing moments in history such as Amistad, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, how do you find your way back to making a more fantasy oriented movie?
You get Tom Cruise, you adapt Phillip K. Dick and you make fuckin’ Minority Report, that’s how.

It’s the year 2054 and Washington D.C.’s prototype Precrime programme is on the verge of going national after a successful six year trial which resulted in next to no premeditated murders being committed in all of that time. Using a trio of clairvoyant “Precogs”, the police are able to record and sort through their visions to predict murders and race to the scene to thwart it before it happens thus resulting in their spotless record. Leading the Precrime team is driven cop John Anderton, a man who believes in Precrime with all he can muster due to the disappearance of his young son six years prior, but while on the surface John is every inch the perfect fortune telling lawman, in his private life he’s a wreck with a crumbled marriage in his wake that only adds to the fact that he’s a high functioning drug addict.
While John waits like a coiled spring for another attempted murder to stop, super-smug United States Department Of Justice agent Danny Witwer is performing an audit of Precrime before it goes nationwide, but while visiting the chamber where the three Precogs remain secluded and medicated, lead Precog Agatha snaps out of her trance to impart the visual echo of the already solved murder of a woman named Anne Lively. Not knowing the meaning of this outburst, Anderton’s week rapidly goes downhill from there when a premeditated murder pops up on his to do list that implies that he himself will fatally shoot someone named Leo Crow 36 hours from now. Essentially now on the run from his own department, John not only has to solve a murder he’s destined to commit before it happens, but he also has to find out who is behind this conspiracy and why he’s been targeted and his only hope to clear his name is to get back to Agatha to find out if there was a discrepancy – or a Minority Report – in the Precog’s visions of the future.

Forming the centre piece of Spielberg’s surpisingly gloomy, 00’s sci-fi trilogy –  alongside Artificial Intelligence: A.I. and the War Of The Worlds remake – Minority Report is the possibly the greatest possible merging of the old Spielberg and the new we could have possibly hoped for (it’s certainly better than Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull or The BFG).
Not only does cinema’s greatest living director (fight me) untangle a magnificently tangled web of murder, paradoxical set pieces and mystery, but he’s obviously drunk off his tits with creating this future world and all of the funky gadgets contained within in order to fuse them into so incredibly high concept action sequences.
Take the machine that Anderton uses to sift through the Precog’s visions via special gloves that leaves him manipulating images like he’s conducting a concerto, or the action scene that’s sees our fleeing hero struggle to evade jetpack wearing police officers that contains dozens of tiny little quirks, like the exhaust causing burgers to fry on a griddle. Or how about a fight scene in a car factory that sees a sleek new automobile being constructed around the combatants ending with Anderton being handily ending up inside his escape vehicle as it’s being built.
It’s not just the action that benefits from Spielberg’s flawless world building, either; behold the super-tense, DePalma-esque style of a handful of robot spiders scanning a retinal scanning a building’s occupants while we look down from above and follow the little buggers from room to room, or the plot machinations that sees a desperate Anderton have his eyes surgically replaced in possibly the most unhygienic apartment this side of Se7en.
Separated from the restrictions of playing nice, this could be one of the greatest playgrounds for the filmmaker’s imagination ever and his endless capacity for molding a memorable moment is well served by his eager cast.
The presence of Tom Cruise and all of his Tom Cruise-y attributes – sustained stress, strenuous stunts, lots of running – gives everything the distinct feel of one of the later Mission: Impossible movies, which is never a bad thing and the movie drags him through the wringer in new and varied ways. I mean, not even an adventure featuring Ethan Hunt has ever gotten so serious he’s had to chase a runaway eyeball down a corridor before it drops through a grate. Joining him is Colin Farrell who, at the time, was still in the early, meteoric rise part of his career and Hollywood’s go-to mentor type, Max Von Sydow; but as good as everyone is, this is unsurprisingly Cruise’s show. That’s to say, Cruise and Spielberg’s show, as it’s impossible to overshadow the director when he’s on this much of a roll and he further shows off his growing maturity by not relying on a big action blowout to play the movie out. In fact, by the time you get to the final third of the movie, all the exaggerated, futuristic actions scenes have all run their course in favour of more subtle set pieces such as a liberated Agatha (a continuously panic stricken Samantha Morton) using her powers to help herself and John avoid detection thanks to some preturnatural timing.
Basically the best slice of action adventure from the latter stage of Spielberg’s filmography by far, it also has a slick, quick-witted intelligence and a fascination with police procedure that ranks it closer to films like L.A. Confidential and Heat rather than the stylish, noir-nightmare of Blade Runner or the robust brain-fucking of Total Recall – two other noteworthy Phillip K. Dick adaptations.

On an odd side-note, when you realise that good buddy George Lucas made Star Wars Episode II at the same time, you have to wonder if they were matching their talents against one another in some sort of bet. I only say this because both movies have a trio of suspiciously similar action sequences that involve someone hanging from a vehicle miles above the ground, a fight scene primarily using rocket packs and an action sequence set in a sparking factory.
Whether I’m right, or it’s some sort of bizarre coincidence, one thing is certain.
Spielberg wins.


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