A new film by Steven Spielberg starring Tom Cruise, Max Van Sydow, Colin
Farrell, Samantha Morton
It was a great idea when Dick wrote it 44 years ago and Spielberg
has been pretty faithful to the concept.
Review by Sam North
Capt Anderton and Agatha
go on the run
OK I know the critics
raved and everyone is happy Tom Cruise has got a good movie out again.
After the debacle of AI I was very cautious about approaching
Minority Report the new film by Steven Spielberg based on
a short novella by Philip K Dick. We all know that Spielberg can handle
action, tension, drama and that the dialogue will be mature, fluid and
thoughtful and the overall design will be fully realised, but can he tell
The answer is an emphatic 'no'.
This Spielberg film contains scenes that could have come from Dynasty
the movie and but the setting and people in it are just not compatible
with the words 2054 that pop up in the beginning of the film.
The story concerns pre-cognitive semi-sentient humans who work in the
Department of PreCrime a successful Washington DC based police
operation that successfully predicts a murder is about to happen and then
sends out a crack team (lead by Tom Cruise) to prevent it. It has cut
the murder rate to zero and the unlucky would-be murderers spend the rest
of their days in suspended animation. It was a great idea when Dick wrote
it in 1956 and Spielberg has been pretty faithful to the concept. Philip
K Dick actually conceived the future we now live in and films made from
his work such as Bladerunner, Screamers are bleak
and reflect the authors paranoid obsessions. (It is worth restating
that the Terminator movies are a series of films inspired
by Philip K Dick and AI itself borrows a great deal. Terminator
1 captured the necessary dark vision to make it compelling and become
a sci-fi icon. We await Terminator 3 with trepidation however.)
Minority Report has a paranoid basis and the pre-cogs are the result of
babies born to parents experimenting with a new drug more addictive and
disturbing than crack. The kids go crazy, born with the vision of other
peoples upcoming murders all the time. Three babies are rescued
and later put to work in the new Department of Precrime and the system
is perfect. There are no innocents put away by accident. Everyone
is guilty as found and Tom Cruise is brilliant at pinpointing the time
and place of the would be killing (spurred on by the fact that his own
child was snatched by a paedophile seven years before.)
But as Precrime is about to go Nationwide, the Attorney Generals
office is staging a coup. They want control of the whole operation and
send in one of their own to observe. Coincidentally Tom Cruise
finds himself the suspect for the next precrime murder and he has to go
on the run. As they often remind us, Everyone runs even if
there is no escape. His only chance is to find the 'minority report' which
may give him an alternative future. When Tom runs he has to go to extremes,
so if you are squeamish about eyes, like me, there is a long toilet break
about half way through when he has his eyes removed and swopped for another.
This is a gross and deeply unhygenic moment in the film with filfthy,
supposedly Russian emigres and possible the best sequences, topped off
with the scary robotic spiders that are searching the building for him.
This is Spielberg at his best and it all works very well.
Spielberg goes to all the trouble of employing Industrial Light and Magic
to orchestrate the brilliant special FX such as the transparent computers,
the 3-D homes movies, the futuristic cars and roads, as well as the police
rocket packs and their very Alien jet powered police craft
and the creepy robotic spiders. However, one look at the actual people
populating Spielbergs films about the future (in AI as well as this) and
you actually know he understands nothing about the future at all.
There is just one black guy in the movie (and of course plays Tom Cruises
buddy at work). Exactly where are all the Asians? One look at contemporary
USA, Washington DC and all of the West Coast and you will know it is full
of Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese and Hispanics. Population projections
place the Caucasians in the minority by 2050; so why is DC
almost all 'white' in Spielbergs movie? Not only that, but mostly
Swedish. Does he only party in very exclusive circles in Hollywood ( much
like the party in the film) and hasnt noticed the change? There
is something of an irony here in calling the film Minority Report. Not
only are the other races missing but also the rich look like Dynasty
the Movie extras. Fashion and decor don't seem to interest
Even if you got rid of all the murders in D.C., would all crime cease?
Would Georgetown still be as civilised in 2054, would the kids really
be safe, the air so clean, the newspapers still be delivered by paperboys
(even though the papers are electronic and as such would update themselves
if you had a subscription - as actually shown on a subway ride.) Would
kids still be buying balloons in the Mall? We still have Malls full of
Ben and Jerrys and Gap stores. Look back fifty years now and virtually
none of the things we take for granted even existed, never mind still
be sold by the same people.
has envisioned (just as Philip K Dick did) a road system that envelopes
the city skyscrapers vertically and horizontally and the fantastic
cars are guiding along electronically. The flaw is that they would
have to be built and one just cannot see zoning and planning laws
allowing such a disfigurement of the cityscape. (Except in Seattle
which desperately needs some kind of solution. The Lexus 'boutique'
factory where new Lexus or Lexi are made without human involvement
was a nice touch however.
In short, either you ignore the future when making a science fiction movie
(as in 'Alphaville', Jean Luc Goddard in the 1960s) or you go the
whole hog, a la Bladerunner and do it right. Bladerunner succeeded because
it imagined a totally new way of life that was at once fascinating and
repellent and what we all recognised as being our most likely future.
Minority Report is a good idea flawed by a lack of complete vision of
a distant future one where it is likely, given modern medical science
and longevity of the rich, Spielberg may live to see how wrong he was.
*If you are wondering how Tom Cruise was, he was great. Of course Max
Von Sydow always plays the baddie, so I am not sure that was great casting
but we were successfully thrown off scent of a long time and that takes
directorial skill. The pre-cog 'Agatha' was played brilliantly by Samantha
Morton whilst Colin Farrel overacted terribly throughout, however, casting
overall produced a good balance. The tone could have been much darker
however, above all there was a lack of menace that would have transformed
this film into something worthwhile and could have been a good comment
of where we all might be going.
A lack of vision, a touch of arrogance and with a probable racial blindspot
his Minority Report shows a narrow mind and a director who
needs to get out more.
Minority Report gets a C+
© Sam North 2002
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