A review of “Minority Report” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ****

Rating: PG-13 for intensity, language, violence

Run Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes

 

 

If this isn’t Steven Spielberg’s career masterwork, it comes awfully damn close.  Smart, grim and loaded with thrills, this is a cinematic roller-coaster ride of epic proportions.

Tom Cruise is all charisma as Police Chief John Anderton, the top man in Washington, D.C.’s elite Pre-Crime unit.  In the year 2054, Pre-Crime is the nation’s most advanced crime force, utilizing three psychic guinea pigs (Pre-Cogs) who float in a liquid suspension chamber and “see” murders that will occur, complete with detailed imagery of time and place.  Pre-Crime is dispatched to the crime scene before the tragedy occurs, virtually eliminating the deadly misdeed before it happens.

The paradox?  It’s not the future if you stop it.  Pre-Crime is scheduled for a national vote, and the pressure is on full blast for one hundred percent success.  Enter Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell), a cocky Justice Department official and Anderton’s ready-made arch-rival.  Witwer is all about making Anderton’s life a living hell – challenging the ethics of his work and placing him under the Pre-Crime microscope, hoping to catch even the faintest whiff of fallibility.  The infinite scrutiny is rendered unbearable when the Pre-Cogs’ visions identify their next killer.  The scene and the victim are unknown to Anderton, but the killer’s identity is crystal clear. John Anderton will murder a total stranger in less than 36 hours.

You can run but you can’t hide.  Anderton goes AWOL with the gritty, noirish nation’s capital as his renegade playground.  While Anderton is on the loose, Spielberg displays a splendid fondness for homage, with seamless movie moments gloriously reminiscent of “Rear Window”, “West Side Story”, and “The Wizard of Oz”.  Echoes of Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock haunt the directorial landscape.  The ghost of Master Hitchcock is most evident while Anderton spirals down a chain of space-age automobiles (in a magnetic levitation traffic jam), to the strains of John Williams doing a melancholic Bernard Herrmann.  A slender getaway on a precipitous fire escape suggests that the Sharks and the Jets may be mamboing around on the pavement below.

You can have your George Lucas and his Star Wars series.  Spielberg gets down to the serious business of cutting-edge special effects that rock the house.  A small legion of sinuously sinister, retina-reading super-spiders moving with fluid, balletic grace.  Interactive computer screens composed of sheer glass panels with transparent images flowing across their surfaces. Uber-macho cops soaring through the night air, bolstered by the force of ultra-mighty jet-packs. For sheer audacity, you can’t beat Cruise running down a steep hallway in desperate pursuit of his errant rolling eyeballs.

Kudos to Spielberg for adapting fantasist Philip K. Dick’s short story into a grim world where privacy has gone the way of surplus of knowledge.  Although the Pre-Cogs (cunningly referred to as Arthur, Dashiell and Agatha after the famous detective novelists) are performing a valuable community service, the disturbing reality is that they are prisoners of the government machine as well as their own murderous nightmares.

Performances are all top notch, from Cruise all the way down to the talking product-placement models for Lexus, Guinness, Gap, etc. Violent, graphic, and breathtaking in its emotional ugliness, this is a classic, ambitious film that restores diminishing faith in the world’s most influential medium.