Before we start: yes, I had already seen Minority Report, but since I did it in 2002 I only remembered the opening scene. For the rest, I didn’t even remember if I liked it or not… so I got it on DVD (in a nostalgic operation I also bought Duel, Jurassic Park and The Big Lebowski) and BAM!, yesterday I saw it again.
And I understood why I only remembered the opening scene: it’s the best thing in the whole movie. The idea introduced in that scene, that of pre-crime, seems immediately interesting and can lead to the development of themes that go far beyond simple chases with futuristic machines, mechanical spiders, and jetpacks (these are all random examples, of course). Eventually, it won’t lead to anything, but we’ll get to it. The scene shows John Anderton (Tom Cruise) trying to figure out where a crime will take place in order to prevent it in a frantic montage where Spielberg also shows us how the future crime is developing. This is really exciting and catapults us into the year 2054 in the best possible way. And then?
Then comes Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) who must investigate the quality of the pre-crime system and, although there is a very beautiful scene in which Cruise and Farrell confront each other in the only truly interesting dialogue of the whole film (in which Farrell prevents a wooden ball from falling to the ground and Cruise tells him that the fact that he stopped it doesn’t change the fact that the ball would have fallen), the film’s problems begin. We find out that in 2048 the crime rate in Washington was so high that the pre-crime program was launched and… in the last 6 years there has been NO murder. None. Zero. From a thousand to zero thanks to pre-crime. So why is there anybody asking questions? Are there still doubts about how effective the system is? In fact, there is a question worth asking: the system, as the film shows us, USES three kids with the power to see the future (they are pre-cogs, a figure that sometimes appears in the splendid and vast literature of the great Philip K. Dick: the film is based on one of his stories). These three poor kids are kept prisoners in a pool in the pre-crime department, continuously drugged, and they have cables inserted into their brains to be able to bring their visions to the police screens. This is not mentioned in the film. Later it will be said that they were children of devastated families with parents unable to look after them and that’s it.
And now comes the worst part. Yes, because what could have been a clever science fiction film that touched upon serious subjects (if a crime didn’t happen because you prevented it, is it still right to convict the person who was about to commit the aforementioned crime but didn’t? Is it right to use the pre-cogs as objects and not as human beings just to take advantage of their remarkable powers? And here I’m thinking about the great episode Measure of a man, second season of Star Trek: the Next Generation, in which there’s a discussion on whether Data should be treated as a living being or as a mere machine to exploit! Back to Minority report: forget all those questions, because it becomes a simple, and boring, film full of car chases and unpredictable and completely useless twists. What triggers all this?
One day Tom Cruise at work discovers that the victim of the next murder in the city will be a certain Leo Crow (Mike Binder), and that the murderer will be… him, Tom Cruise. So he escapes and does everything in his power to try to prove his innocence, in which he firmly believes: he doesn’t even know Leo Crow! In all this we discover the reason for the title of the film: Cruise finds out that sometimes there are minority reports because Agatha (Samantha Morton), the most gifted of the pre-cogs, doesn’t always foresee the same things as the other two. Convinced that this must be his case, he kidnaps her to extract his minority report in which he evidently doesn’t kill Leo Crow. In reality, this minority report won’t be there and the key point of the film will revolve around the echoes, some sort of deja-vu… but let’s not get lost in all this as if it were useful. The truth is that the film from this point on is simply the following: Cruise runs away, the cops chase him. Cruise manages to escape, goes to another place and the policemen chase him. He manages to escape and goes to another place, where the policemen arrive after a while… and so on. And if these were all compelling pursuits with credible situations, it could work as a simple action movie, but… it doesn’t.
Everything starts with Cruise running away in a car, but after a while the pre-crime system takes control of his car and redirects it to a precinct to have him arrested. Then Cruise escapes by jumping from one car to another like a jedi of the new Star Wars trilogy (not the new new one, the middle one. The great one with Jar Jar in it). Then the cops arrive with jetpacks, they destroy some apartments in the process in which only policemen get hurt because Cruise is naturally immune to pain and wounds (and there are also the usual slapstick comedy Spielberg-ean scenes in which our heroes disturb families having breakfast and couples having sex under a thousand layers of blankets and sheets). And then the icing on the cake: the chase ends up in a car factory and Cruise runs off with a new car. BUT EVERYTHING BEGAN BECAUSE THE CARS CAN BE CONTROLLED BY THE POLICE!!! Well, not this one. It’s obviously a special car. Very well.
So Cruise goes to talk to a chick in a greenhouse full of sentient plants (WTF?) who tells him about minority reports, so now Cruise has to kidnap Agatha to find his minority report proving his innocence. But Cruise himself says it will be difficult to kidnap her, since the whole pre-crime police department is looking for him. So what does he do? He has a foolproof plan: he changes his eyes (in 2054 there are optical scans everywhere so it would be difficult to go unnoticed) by going to a doctor in the underworld (in a scene that perhaps wants to pay tribute to Tim Burton’s Batman when Jack Napier becomes the Joker after he fell into acid?). It turns out that the doctor hates Cruise because he had him jailed years before… he wants revenge! So what does he do? Nothing. He changes his eyes as requested, gives him advice on how not to get hurt, leaves him something to eat… so what’s the meaning of this? It leads absolutely to nothing. Ah no, it leads to another useless scene. The policemen go to check the building by unleashing robotic spiders to which Cruise tries to escape by slipping into a tub of frozen water and… fails. The spiders find him and scan his left eye (so early after the procedure that he should become blind from that eye, the doctor had said, but he’s fine because… Tom Cruise) and it worked! The spiders are fooled and go away.
And then the infallible plan to kidnap the pre-cog continues: Cruise goes to the police department, he injects himself with a substance supposed to radically and painfully change his face (it doesn’t: it’s identical, only that it seems they he just came out of a pub brawl; moreover, the effect lasts five minutes in total!), and enters opening all the doors that it wants USING ONE OF HIS REMOVED EYES. Now you would think that the police had removed the access privileges to Agent Cruise since he’s number one in the Wanted list (there are no crimes, so I suppose it’s a very short list), right? Well, they didn’t, so he can go to work. Even funnier: towards the end of the film the wife enters the police department in the same way when Cruise himself will have been arrested! But let’s go on.
The plot twist that we discover later is worthy of Judge Dredd, the 1995 movie with Stallone wearing Versace’s clothes. Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow, who by the way is one of the senior judges in that Judge Dredd, but not the one who sets him up) is setting up Cruise to cover up his murder and save the pre-crime system and continue to maintain his power. This will lead him to a final confrontation against Cruise in which he will choose to commit suicide instead of killing Cruise as foreseen by the pre-crime system, thus denying its infallibility and effectively bringing it to an end. And here’s another problem of the film, namely Spielberg’s uncontrollable desire to be family-friendly. If at least von Sydow had killed Cruise everything would have made sense: “Ok, you got me, but at least I proved that the system works, they’ll put me in jail but I was right! The system works!” No, Max von Sydow is suicidal for… for… reasons. So that Cruise can get back together with his wife and even have a baby, and meanwhile the pre-cogs can live happily ever after in the prairie house.
In all this Colin Farrell’s character dies at the hands of the wicked von Sydow, Cruise is arrested and his wife frees him by using one of his eyes that is very well preserved in a plastic bag days after being extracted (and taking advantage of the fact that the security officer of the pre-crime department is obviously Homer Simpson), and the strong motivation of the character of Cruise is revealed. Brace yourselves: he strongly believes in the pre-crime system because his son was kidnapped and it wouldn’t have happened if there had been the pre-crime system. Eh. It seems like one of those backgrounds of the Dungeons & Dragons characters when we were 14 years old: “My character hates trolls because the trolls exterminated his family when he was little.” Great. But, after all, Spielberg is not new to these very strong characterizations, we shouldn’t be surprised (do you remember Sam Neill in Jurassic Park who hates children but in the end loves children?).
So, what about this Minority report? Well, special effects have held up well. For example, the first Spider man by Sam Raimi also came out in 2002 and the CGI scenes look terrible today, while Spielberg’s movie visually still has things to say. This is possibly due to its beautiful and strange cinematography, with burnt whites next to very cold desaturated colors that serve well the futuristic but dirty setting of an unpleasant world. Colin Farrell’s character is also well written, being a bit of an outsider instead of the 100% good Cruise or the 100% bad von Sydow. And, then as said at the beginning, the initial scene is really amazing, as well as the first confrontation between Cruise and Farrell. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is not memorable: it accompanies well all the scenes where we hear it (it’s by John Williams, I don’t expect anything less), but it doesn’t have a recognizable theme.
To conclude, I don’t particularly recommend watching Minority Report: (also, it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test). So what should I do now? Should I continue with the nostalgia operation? Member Jurassic Park? Member the T-Rex? Member Mr DNA? I’m afraid… Ciao!