Article By: Dan Clark
There are many titans of the Science Fiction genre. When certain names are attached to a project a large amount of reverence comes with them. Two names that fully fit that description are Philip K. Dick and Steven Spielberg. Their sensibilities are not nearly exact, but they are certainly closer than Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick. Adapting Philip K. Dick’s stories for the big screen has led to the creation of some superb Science Fiction films like Blade Runner and the original Total Recall. There have been a few duds along the way as well. Paycheck and Next are two examples that did not do their source material justice. Spielberg’s Minority Report is another example of how to do it right. It is a cerebral high-tech adventure full of intrigue and thrills. It creates a world that combines futuristic idealism with dystopian fears. The story will keep you guessing, and for the most part avoids getting lost in its own mystery. Minority Report adds a bit of flavor to the stereotypical stock of summer blockbusters.
Minority Report also marks the first time Steven Spielberg made a film that starred Tom Cruise. Considering what titanic cinematic heavyweights both of them are it is odd it took so long for the two to partner up. In the film Tom Cruise plays John Anderton, a member of the Precrime division. The year is 2054 and the city of Washington, D.C has found a cure for murder due to the data that is obtain from the Precogs. The Precogs are three mutated humans who have ability to see murder before it happens. Anderton and his team use these visions to determine where the murder will take place and who will be doing it. By scrubbing the scene, as they call it, they are able to arrest the perpetrator before the murder occurs. This process has become such a success it is on the brink of going worldwide.
The first thing that jumps out of you with Minority Report is the unique artifice is built on. Spielberg worked with a group of future expects to craft a world that would realistically resemble what 2054 would really look like. Looking back on this world nearly eleven years later that ploy paid off. It has a unique aesthetic design that remains impressive to this day. There is a multitude of interesting gadgets that beg to be played with. While there are a number of advancements that seem unlikely to be developed within the next forty years, there is still enough mundaneness to ground it in the real world. The idealist technological advances are counteracting with a perversion of personal freedoms.
Not everyone sees Precrime as the answer. The idea of arresting someone before they commit a crime has some worried the Government has crossed a line. Anderton is a strong believer in ths system, and feels it if was in place sooner it could have saved the life of his only son. His loyalty is tested when the Precogs deem him as a future murderer. He does not know the man destiny has chosen him to kill, which makes him believe he is being set up. Everbody runs…and Anderton is no different. He is willing to tempt fate in order to prove he is an innocent man.
Minority Report is an amalgamation of a variety of different elements. It is a classic neo noir narrative—placed inside the Science Fiction genre—with the excitement of a chase film—and the theoretical analysis of a political drama. Not every element works as well as the next. Most of the deeper plotting becomes muddled in a sea of convolution. The array of twist and turns in the final act diminish most of the social commentary. Even with its issues the plot is compelling enough to keep you intrigued.
Where the film thrives is its ability to keep the chase going. There are a numbering if exhilarating set-pieces that dial up the thrilling adventure. Spielberg keeps the action stimulating by injecting sequences that are vastly different from one another. One moment you have a large scale excursion across a futuristic speeding highway—then you are placed into a dreary game of hide and seek inside a rundown and dirty apartment. The ‘spider sequence’ is perfect illustration of Spielberg in all his glory. The camera is constantly on the move and placed in a variety of angles The sound effects along with he nail-biting score build up the anticipation to extreme levels. Then he allows a moment of silence as we sit and wait for the bitter end. It is purely stunning and goes down as one of his most iconic moments of the last decade.
With this being the first time Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg are working together there is some curiosity in seeing how well these two gigantic personalities will coincide. Overall the results are positive. Cruise brings what we expect of him. He has his classic charismatic charm and the gravitas needed to pull off most the action beats. When the film needs him to relay more on his dramatic skills the consequences are not as positive. There is a drug addicted depressed side to him that never feels legitimate. Watching him sulk over old home videos is not nearly as effective as the film hopes. Those moments do pay off plot wise as the film progresses, but the emotional residence they are designed to evoke never truly accumulates.
Minority Report has gotten even better with age. It provides any fan of Science Fiction a film they can respect. The special effects are top notch and the story is strong enough to keep you invested. The final act does divulge into Spielberg’s trademark pandering sensibilities, but luckily doesn’t reach the self-indulgent levels of A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Even with its issues Minority Report offers an intriguing exploration into an unknown world that will make you think. Considering how static the world of Science Fiction can get it is reassuring when films like Minority Report show there is still room for innovation.