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IN SHORT: What could be a brilliant SF murder mystery stumbles enough to leave us and everyone around us thoroughly confused. [Rated PG-13 for violence, brief language, some sexuality and drug content. 140 minutes]
In a future so close that you could probably smell the exhaust spewing from the tailpipes of the custom designed Lexus autocruisers, if these electromagnetic wundercars had such things, society has come up with the ultimate way to prevent murderous criminal acts from occurring. Almost a decade before the film Minority Report begins, and quite by accident, scientists discovered a trio of pre-cognitives (ie. they can see the future) and have turned them into an ultimate crime prevention mechanism. Sedated and floating in an isolated pool, the three technologically convey their visions to the modern day police force, allowing top cops like Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) to arrest murderers before they actually do the dirty deed. The murder rate in Washington DC, the Pre-Crime Unit's test city is, as you may guess, is way down. The pre-cogs, it is generally believed, are never wrong. Never.
Such is the setup for the upper echelon team-up of A-List actor Tom Cruise and A-list director Steven Spielberg. They take, as a jumping off point, a short story by one of the great paranoid SF writers, Philip K. Dick, and go bananas. We're accustomed to adaptations of doorstop thick novels to stumble and confuse but this shouldn't be the case with solid short stories expanded to a big screen time frame We're assuming the original story was solid as Cruise and Spielberg wouldn't settle for anything less but, as always, didn't crack open our SF anthologies for a second look. You shouldn't have to read the story to understand the movie and, for almost all of Minority Report, there is little to make your attention stumble.
When it does, though, it does so with a mighty THUD. All positive momentum in the film falls apart about three quarters of the way through and though the film manages to right itself by the time the final credits roll, what might have been a brilliant solution to a great murder mystery doesn't deliver the satisfaction that it should. We hope you can follow what the heck happens towards the end. A number of guys we asked after our screening felt as emotionally dead in the water as we did and we can only guess that, if you don't stumble, you'll find Minority Report to be flat out wonderful.
The first hour and a half, or so, is. Spielberg doesn't have to break a sweat to create a futurescape and the one he does -- the setting is a mere 50 years down the line -- is one close enough to our reality to be believable and so far beyond current tech as to fit snugly in the realm of Science Fantasy. Paying obvious homage to films such as Blade Runner, itself based on a story by Dick, and the work of Stanley Kubrick, Minority Report's futurescape is easily worth a couple of views just to soak in the detail.
With DC crime free, the test program is about to go national when Chief Anderton is fingered for the murder of a man he has never heard of, in a place he has never been and doesn't recognize, about 36 hours down the line. Anderton, whose own personal history hides the reason why this murder is possible, runs for the hills. He's never had a reason to believe the system could be wrong and he doesn't believe he would kill.
Only on the run from his fellow officers and Federal cop Ed Witwer (Colin Farrell) does Anderton discover that the Pre-Cogs don't necessarily agree with each other. That these "glitches" in the system are detailed in something called the "Minority Report," which may hold the key to Anderton's innocence. All he has to do is find it. That means tracking down Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) the researcher who developed the P-C system and avoiding the tracking skills of fellow officers Fletcher (Neil McDonough), his boss Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow) and the most powerful of the three pre-cogs, Agatha (Samantha Morton). While "murder" may be off the table for Anderton, by the time this film is through, he will have broken enough other laws to get him locked up for a good long time -- if he gets caught. The key to that, or to his salvation, lies with his estranged wife Lara (Kathryn Morris).
There are aspects of this world that are virtually begging to be expanded upon -- some cops treat the pre-cogs with the reverence reserved for a Deity -- and we would be happy to drown ourselves in the technology on display. The emphasis is on the chase and the conclusion to the film didn't leave us as happy as the the first two Acts set us up for. We never reveal the Third Act, but you'll know when Minority Report goes wrong. If it doesn't, then you'll have a fine time.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Minority Report, he would have paid . . .
Minority Report didn't have us fidgeting from its length; our disappointment
may come from too great an expectation of the Spielberg-Cruise combination. For
Tom Cruise StarTalk, click here.
For Minority Report wallpapers, click
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