124 – Minority Report

John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is the chief of Precrime, a futuristic law-enforcement program that allows authorities to stop murders – before they occur. In a nutshell, three beings called Precogs (short for “Precognitive”) are able to foresee all killings, usually a day (or less) before they occur. They can identify the killer and the victim, as well as the time of the murder (to the second); it’s up to the Precrime team to figure out exactly where the murder will occur based on the Precog visions.

It’s a system that’s never wrong. The Precogs only see crimes that WOULD have happened, not murders that might have happened. In other words, premeditative killings. (Why can’t the Precogs see other crimes, such as rapes? Because of, as Anderton put it, “the nature of murder”; that is, murder is an act unlike any other crime.)

As a result of Precrime’s efforts, murder in Washington, DC has diminished rapidly – down by 90%. People don’t even think about committing murders anymore; the system is that much of a deterrant.

Which makes it ripe for a setup, doesn’t it?

Enter Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell). He’s with the Justice Department, on orders from the Attorney General, and he wants to examine Precrime a little more closely. He knows no mistakes are made, but he wants to know why. He’s reluctantly given a tour of the facilities by Anderton, and he’s even allowed to see the three Precogs.

Shortly thereafter, the red ball that indicates the name of the guilty rolls a familiar name – Anderton himself. The next ball, showing the victim, reveals a name unknown to Anderton himself. He doesn’t recognize the name, but he’s supposed to kill the man in less than three days. Needless to say, he runs; needless to say, his Precrime teammates follow.

This much you would have gathered from the endless promos for the film. It looks, on the surface, like a standard Tom Cruise they’re-out-to-get-me movie. In fact, when I saw previews of this movie, that’s exactly what I thought. The man’s been set up like a bowling pin in movie after movie.

But hold on! It’s a lot more complicated than that. Anderton’s task is not only to find out the connection between him and the victim but also to find out who would want him to kill the man – and why. It’s a trip that takes him through some of his own darkest memories (his son was kidnapped, never to be seen again, as a young boy at a public pool).

Anderton is not your typical hero figure, either. He’s hooked on the new drug of choice, which is consumed in the same way an asthmatic would breathe on an inhaler. He tortures himself nightly by viewing old discs (home movies) of his son and his wife, who left him after the boy’s disappearance.

Luckily, though, it’s not a movie that leans heavily on making things up as it goes along, much like Cruise’s last opus, Vanilla Sky. It’s full of twists, torturous but not murky. Characters from John’s past figure prominently into the plotline, but it’s up to him to decide how much importance any one person has in resolving his inner and outer conflicts.

The movie is also filled with wonderful special effects, the kind that enhance a film, rather than simply detract from its essence. It doesn’t depend on these effects to pull it out of illogical missteps, either. Director Steven Spielberg, with this movie, rebounds nicely from the travesty of A.I. to produce what that alternate-reality movie failed miserably to provide: a real, believable plot powered by appealing, plasible characters. The story, based on a Philip K. Dick short story, keeps Anderton on his toes, and the audience along with him. The difference between this movie and many other pretenders is that Minority Report makes the audience care what happens to Anderton at each step of the movie. With many other films, the viewer sort of gives up on the character, either because they can’t relate to him or her or because the pacing of the movie is so turgid as to prevent anything but ennui.

And Cruise is perfect in the role. Absolutely perfect. When I saw the preview for this film, I thought the movie was trying to turn Tom into another Arnold-like sci-fi hero (Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall was also based on a Dick story). I doubted seriously Cruise’s ability to get down and dirty with a role, and pull it off. You may recall he was disfigured in Vanilla Sky; here he goes along a similar route, but his motivations and nuances are perfectly captured. The atmosphere created by the elite cinematography and the dazzling characterization from Cruise himself were the highlights of the movie.

Minority Report: 8.5

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