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Minority Report

Review by Adam Swimmer

Minority Report (Three out of Five)
Starring Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick

Are you a criminal if you get arrested before you commit the crime, before you even thought about committing it? That’s the central question to the new Steven Spielberg film, Minority Report. Or rather one would think that would be the question central to a film where police officers arrest "future murderers" based on the predictions of three "precogs" hooked up to machines in a pool. But action sequences quickly replace any ethical dilemmas the premise suggests.

Spielberg’s world meshes the glamorous side of commercialism with images stolen from other popular science fiction films. It looks like a cologne company’s vision of the future. It has tall, glass buildings covered in advertisements for Pepsi and The Gap. Sleek Tron-like cars zip through the Hot Wheels-style racing track streets. The police fly through the city in copies of Boba Fett’s ship from the Star Wars series. The eye-opening device from A Clockwork Orange is used for an eye surgery scene. And everything is covered in a calming blue hue.

In this world, John Anderton (Tom Cruise) heads up the special police unit devoted to Pre-Crime, specifically murder. His job is to scan the visions of the three precogs on a large viewscreen. Responding to the movements of his hands, the images are played like a symphony, as he tries to find clues as to where the murders will take place.

Anderton originally defends the actions of this special Pre-Crime unit. He says stopping the murder doesn’t change the fact the person is a murderer. He demonstrates by rolling a marble off a counter. Another cop catches it as it rolls off the edge. But catching it doesn’t mean the marble wasn’t going to hit the floor.

Of course, Anderton’s attitude changes when the precogs predict he will murder a complete stranger in 36 hours. Convinced he has been set up, Anderton runs away to prove his innocence. From then on, it’s basically a standard chase movie. And for the most part it works. Spielberg has a strong background in adventure films and so he is easily able to keep the pace fast and entertaining, if a bit formulaic.

Though, some of these scenes occasionally border on the ridiculous, especially when Anderton has Agatha, (Samantha Morton) one of the precogs, with him. Oddly, her abilities as a seer are stronger alone than when she’s connected to the other two precogs. Together, they can only predict murders. But on her own, it seems as if she can predict everything that everyone is going to do.
Spielberg also spends too much time resolving things. The film reaches the potential murder scene and instead of ending there, the director spends roughly 20 minutes, tying up every loose end he can find, including succinctly answering the philosophical question of predetermination, which he has been avoiding for most of the film. The answer reminds the viewer that Spielberg is a children’s filmmaker at heart.




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