Review by Jack Foley
SCIENCE fiction seems to work best when it takes on darker territory, exploring the realms of the what if scenario and presenting a believably nightmarish vision of what could be.
Ridley Scotts Blade Runner (especially its directors cut) is a prime example, as are the likes of The Matrix and Planet of the Apes (the original). Minority Report, the eagerly anticipated collaboration between director Steven Spielberg and A-list star Tom Cruise, works so well because it seems to recognise this fact and borrow from it, while maintaining an identity all of its own.
Based on a Philip K. Dick short story, the film is set in a future (2054) when law enforcement is controlled by a Pre-Crime squad of cops who can see a murder before it happens, using the premonitions of three Pre-Cogs (or psychic humans), and arrest the perpetrator before any offence occurs. As a result, there has not been a murder in six years and the scheme looks set to go national.
Questions remain, however, over the reliability of the system and whether potential killers are being locked away for crimes they may never commit.
One of its biggest supporters is Cruises mixed-up Chief John Anderton, for whom Pre-Crime represents the chance to heal the personal torment suffered following the abduction and murder of his son. Yet his loyalty is put to the test when one of the Pre-Cogs foresees a murder committed by himself and he is forced to go on the run to prove his innocence and prevent the crime from happening.
Having chartered darker territory in last years AI, Spielberg ventures even further in Minority Report - creating an almost bleached future (all blues and greys) in which humans are policed by a Big Brother-style network of cameras and computers which can account for a persons whereabouts at all times.
Struggling to exist in this society is Cruises emotionally-detached Anderson, a drug-addicted cop whose obsessive dedication to the Pre-Crime cause belies an inner turmoil borne out of the responsibility he still feels for the disappearance of his son.
It is to Spielbergs credit, however, that Minority Report refrains from employing the same sort of misty-eyed sentimentality which dogged AI, concentrating instead on the moral conundrum presented by the Pre-Crime ethic, while keeping the film tense and exciting throughout.
This is a thinking mans action flick which, while dependent on CGI and some clever set pieces, never loses sight of the human conflicts involved, allowing its cast the chance to shine. Cruise, especially, is terrific, giving a relatively low-key performance by his showy standards (there is less of the smile which has begun to dominate), while Colin Farrell, as a cocky colleague, Samantha Morton, as one of the Pre-Cogs, and Max Von Sydow, as the brains behind Pre-Crime, present solid support.
Audiences should also delight in the complexity of proceedings, as well as the frequently witty insights into futuristic consumerism (advertising, for example, is geared towards an individuals needs!), while holding their breath at the brash set pieces which include a jetpack chase through homes and alleyways, a fight at a car construction plant and a particularly gruelling eye operation and recovery.
The one niggle to be found is in the movies final moments, when that Spielberg need for some sort of reassurance, or feel-good indulgence, serves to provide a close which feels tacked-on; but in the main this is superior film-making which more than does justice to the prodigious talents of its central pairing. The report on this one makes for positive reading.