Principal Cast : Tom Cruise, Max Von Sydow, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Michael and Matthew Dickman, Lois Smith, Kathryn Morris, Tyler Patrick Jones, Mike Bender, Steve Harris, Jessica Harper, Tim Blake Nelson, Daniel London, Peter Stormare, Neal McDonough, Patrick Kilpatrick, Jessica Capshaw, Jason Antoon, Nancy Linehan Charles, Ayre Gross, Ashley Crow.
Synopsis: In a future where a special police unit is able to arrest murderers before they commit their crimes, an officer from that unit is himself accused of a future murder.
One of the better sci-fi films of the early 2000’s, Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report saw him team with A-list superstar Tom Cruise for the first time, and tackle yet another popular genre author’s works – in this instance, Philip K Dick’s “The Minority Report” – in a story of self-determination, fate and futurism, delivering an intelligent, stimulating opus that sits alongside his other “Blue Period” films such as AI: Artificial Intelligence and War Of The Worlds. The film’s complexity and depth of thematic material makes it a story you can’t just half-ass watch, you need to be fully invested, and great reward is on offer for folks who do venture into Spielberg’s incredibly rich, albeit densely layered, film about predestination. Boasting solid action sequences, very good CG effects, a terrific John Williams score (let’s face it, when aren’t they terrific?) and an absolutely packed A-list cast, Minority Report is a heady, thinking-person’s science fiction that delivers thrills and twists despite a dour tone.
Cruise plays John Anderton, a commanding offer in the Washington DC Precrime programme, a law enforcement subset that predicts when a murder (or any crime, for that matter) is going to occur and sets out to not only prevent said crimes, but also arrest the future-murderers before they carry out their acts. The three Precogs – people who have visions that forecast the future – suddenly see Anderton himself committing a killing, John goes on the run to uncover the truth, pursued by dogged Precrime agents, DOJ Agent Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell), and aided by his friend, Precrime Director Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow). It’s all very convoluted but Spielberg plays this near-future story absolutely straight, from Anderton’s incessant grief over the death of his young son just prior to Precrime being established, to Witwer’s dogged determination to prove Precrime is a fallible system, to the torture endured by the Precogs who process these horrifying visions of death, with barely a glimpse of humour derived from the deadly goings-on.
As always, Spielberg’s production design and use of the widescreen ratio is superb, with the crisp visual effects still holding up (mostly) under modern scrutiny. Some of the technological expectations here have some semblance in reality today, which is a surprise, although I’m thankful the blanket Blade Runner-esque advertising that dominates much of the film’s metropolitan landscapes has not yet come to pass. Spielberg’s regular DP Janusz Kaminski gives the film a dour, blue-hued vibrancy that almost suffocates the film at times, but the framing and editing of both the dramatic exposition and action sequences is, as you’d expect from a master storyteller like Spielberg, sublime. The film is a masterclass in narrative structure and character development, perfectly working to ensure Tom Cruise – who is excellent here – is both empathetic and perhaps a little ragged around the edges of morality, making him a remarkable screen protagonist. While I tend to think a lot of Spielberg’s films since 2001 have leaned too heavily into the soft-focused tonality of both AI and Minority Report (which really do share similar genetic makeup, it must be said) I think of all his “Blue Period” movies, this is the one that has the visual language and editorial prowess to really grab the audience by the throat and deliver a deeply human and incredibly intelligent story. Make no mistake, Spielberg never dumbs down his sci-fi, and a while I would suggest Minority Report isn’t traditional “blockbuster fare” filmmaking, there’s plenty of entertainment to be found for those keen to look.
Minority Report is a fascinating future-thinking film that asks more questions than it answers, which is exactly what great sci-fi should do. The ideas posited in the film make for intriguing debate: are we masters of our own destiny, should be be convicted of a crime we have yet to commit before we commit it, and is Colin Farrell one of the greatest character actors of all time? A cast that includes Max von Sydow, Lois Smith, Tim Blake Nelson and Neal McDonough, as well as Samantha Morton and Kathryn Morris, alongside the always terrific Tom Cruise, is one to savour, and both Spielberg and the viewer do just that. If I had a single criticism of Minority Report it’s that it is a touch long – 145 minutes might be about average by today’s bloated standards – and the second act does feel a touch over-told, but for sheer energy and sense of mystery, this is one of Spielberg’s post-millennial best.