James Stewart stars as a railroad man hired to secretly carry a payroll despite his suspected connections to outlaws
Steven Spielberg directs Tom Cruise in this exciting but convoluted sci-fi thriller based on a Philip K Dick short story. A future police department has eliminated murder, thanks to clairvoyants who predict crimes - but is the system really flawles
You couldn't hope for a blockbuster with better credentials. Steven Spielberg, co-inventor of the modern event movie, directs Tom Cruise, the quintessential action actor, in a film based on a short story by provocative author Philip K Dick. Screenwriter Scott Frank was responsible for quality Hollywood fare like Get Shorty and Out Of Sight, while cinematographer Janusz Kaminski shot Spielberg's best-looking films and composer John Williams is synonymous with classic soundtracks. Minority Report can't quite live up to the expectations generated by these credits, but it's a thoughtful, finely crafted blockbuster nevertheless.
Tom Cruise stars as John Anderton, chief of Washington DC Justice Department's Precrime unit. Precrime? Well, it's 2054, and humankind has produced three psychics - or "Pre-Cogs" - who foresee murders and provide the Precrime cops with information to prevent them. Colin Farrell's FBI agent, Danny Witwer, points out the paradox that "You're arresting innocent people". He is determined to disprove Precrime ("There's always a flaw. It's human, it always is"), bringing him into conflict with Anderton. Then the Pre-Cogs predict that Anderton himself will murder someone. Attempting to elude the cops in this hi-tech city - where ID is checked via automatic retina scans - Anderton is determined to prove he's been framed.
As with Hollywood's other films based on Dick's writings - Blade Runner, Total Recall and Impostor - Minority Report is potentially confusing. The plotting of the first two thirds of the first keeps the action moving along in a relatively straightforward manner - as long as you're paying attention. Unfortunately, by the denouement the film has become bogged down in exposition - it's uncertain what the story's actual crime was, so this has to be explained before the true baddie can be exposed.
Action comes in the form of some excellent set-pieces, as Anderton tries to elude his former colleagues (headed up by McDonough, 'Band Of Brothers'). One sequence involves use of that winning boy's toy, the jet pack. Another presents us with an intriguing visualisation of a road network that consists of "magnetic-levitation" vehicles that are part-car, part-personal elevator. Another set-piece features a car production line - replete with robots and trapped arms, reminiscent of a scene in Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones.
Spielberg is, however, a better storyteller than Lucas. He also introduces some refreshing humour. This is mostly thanks to Peter Stormare, who plays a disgustingly grubby doctor who gives Anderton an eye transplant (so he can elude the retina scanners) and Tim Blake Nelson, who plays the warden at the 'prison' where the would-be murderers are stored in suspended animation.
The prison, or "containment unit" is one of several motifs reminiscent of The Matrix. There are also, inevitably, Blade Runner moments (dank slums, ubiquitous adverts - although the latter are funny as they speak directly to you, having scanned your retina, thus: "John Anderton - You could use a Guinness right now"). Other aspects are reminiscent of Spielberg's own A.I. Artificial Intelligence, notably the combination of high-tech and old world. And the Kubrick influences are also evident.
Verdict It's classy and full of interesting sci-fi conjecture, but the sophistication and style of Spielberg's blockbuster is undermined by a convoluted story. More dynamic than A.I., Minority Report is the most fun a Spielberg film has been for a long while.
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