The world at last has figured out how to get cars from a high-rise park garage onto the thruway.

MINORITY REPORT

An Illusion review by Joan Ellis


Filmed with flair and acted with competence, Minority Report ripples with Steven Spielberg’s love of probing the near future with questions and answers.  With contemporary society poised on the fence between man’s use of robotics to enhance life and becoming robotic himself, change in Spielberg’s hands comes close to being prediction rather than possibility.  He stays in the realm of next steps rather than leaps, and that is a distinctly uncomfortable place to be.   Far future fantasies are easy to dismiss.  This isn’t.

                The movie opens with an intriguing premise – that the technology of 2054 will be able to capture the exact image of murders not yet committed thereby abolishing the crime of murder itself.  Murder has been eradicated in Washington, DC, due largely to the efforts of the Pre-Crime division of the DCPD.  It’s an experimental program about to go national and it depends on three Pre-Cogs, former human beings now floating in an eerie liquid pool at headquarters (“the Temple”), their heads encased in an apparatus that looks like EKG equipment borrowed from the local EMO. 

Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is highly skilled at reading the Pre-Cogs’ vision of the future and then preventing the murders with Pre-Op SWAT teams clad in black clothing and equipment.    Anderton’s professional brilliance prevails until he, himself, is seen in the vision killing a man 36 hours hence – an in-house Pre-Crime of the first order. 

As his peers try to chase him down, Anderton races to prove his innocence.  By now we have a villain, an idealist, and good people just trying to do their jobs.  It is the idealist’s assignment to announce and pursue his theory that in every perfect system, there will be a human flaw. 

The imagined technology is great.  The world, at last, has figured out how to get cars from high-rise park garages onto thruways.  Vertical and horizontal automation – grand idea.  Tom Cruise is poetry in motion as he stands in front of giant glass screen monitors, gracefully conducting the translations of  Pre-Cog visions.  And watch the small, perfect, definitive wooden ball that announces the name of the future murderer and his victim.  Then the interesting questions begin:  Are the Pre-cogs ever wrong?  Can they disagree?  Can there be a minority report to their verdicts?

The bigger Spielbergian questions emerge interestingly in scenes with Max von Sydow and Lois Smith, who delivers a provocative and spooky performance.  “That which keeps us safe will also keep us free,” is an apt cogitation for these days when our liberties are eroding in the name of security.   Spielberg’s vision of a world that can eliminate crime by anticipating it is perfectly topical for today’s concern with preemptive action.  But these big questions lose their power as the movie runs on and on for well over two and a half hours.  When Agatha (Samantha Morton) finally says, “I’m tired of the future,” we are cheered that she has seen the light. 

 


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