Movie Review #825: Surprisingly underrated in Spielberg’s filmography, ‘Minority Report’ is engaging, thought-provoking and intense, and features an excellent performance from Tom Cruise.
By Red Stewart
|Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi|
|Rated PG-13 (contains violence, drug content, sexual content, profanity)|
There’s a scene early on in “Minority Report” where Cruise rolls a ball across a table towards Colin Farrell, who promptly catches it. When inquired about his action, Farrell replies that the ball was about to fall, leading Cruise to comment that there was never a chance it would change its trajectory; in other words, it was always going to drop.
The banter is obviously a sly metaphor for human freewill and how, once someone has made up their mind about a future decision, there’s no turning back. Now, one might obviously point out that there’s a significant difference between an inorganic object like a ball and a human being; we have a brain capable of producing sapient thoughts. But “Minority Report” pushes past that apparent solution and explores this concept further in an exhilarating escapade that ranks as one of the greatest sci-fi films ever created.
In the year 2054, crime has nearly been eradicated in Washington, D.C., thanks to the use of three psychic beings known as precogs, who provide accurate visions of imminent homicides to an advanced police division called PreCrime. When the department’s captain, John Anderton (Cruise), is predicted by the precogs to murder a man he doesn’t even know, he goes rogue in an attempt to solve the mystery and, effectively, change his faith.
The master behind “Minority Report”‘s premise is none other than legendary author Phillip K. Dick, whose works have inspired other such films as “A Scanner Darkly”, “Blade Runner”, “Paycheck”, and “Total Recall”. Dick’s original short story, The Minority Report, focused on the age-old conflict of Determinism v. Freewill that has since expanded into many other scenarios including the brain-in-the-vat (“The Matrix”) and the effects of mass marketing (“Super Size Me”). Helming this adaptation, Steven Spielberg supersedes the milestone set by “Saving Private Ryan” in terms of his maturity as a director. I know this is a big thing to say, but “Minority Report” is full of so many vital plot elements, that to be able to balance them all requires even more skill than an epic war drama. Spielberg takes the philosophy of Richard Linklater, the suspense of Hitchcock, the mystery of David Lynch, the visuals of Kubrick, and the action of John Woo and combines them into an invigorating experience a film of this scale needs.
Can I safely say that Tom Cruise is the greatest actor of the 21st century? Okay, maybe that was true for the ’80s, but the fact that he’s still going strong even with the next generation of actors on the rise is a notable feat. Here, he takes all the qualities of Ethan Hunt and just adds a lot more depth and backstory; giving us a good idea about Anderton’s personality in the few private scenes we have with his character. He keeps you engaged from beginning to end and, of course, more than excels in the many chase and fight scenes.
I did have a small problem with the ending, though it wasn’t for any of the reasons notable critics have popularized like it was “too happy”. The optimism fits the film’s premise, but I felt like the answer Spielberg and screenwriters Scott Frank/Jon Cohen gave to the thematic question was too straightforward and simplistic. I know, I know, Occam’s razor…
Needless to say, “Minority Report” is Spielberg and Cruise at their best. It may not hold the same legacy as other sci-fi hits like “Alien”, “Terminator”, and “A Clockwork Orange”, but it sure deserves to. I highly recommend you see it.