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Minority Report (PG-13)
20th Century Fox/Dreamworks
Official Site
Director: Steven Spielberg
Producers: Gerald R. Molen, Bonnie Curtis, Walter F. Parkes, Jan De Bont
Written by: Scott Frank and Jon Cohen; from the short story by Philip K. Dick
Cast: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Max Von Sydow, Peter Stormare, Lois Smith

Rating: out of 5

No one who's read the original story will be surprised that the movie diverges greatly from Philip K. Dick's "The Minority Report" (in the collection The Days Of Perky Pat). Though the literary John Anderton did see some action, he was pretty clearly a middle-aged desk jockey. Not so the kinematic Cruise, a top cop who also goes out into the field to make busts.

You can tell that Steven Spielberg had his sticky fingers in this pie, because Anderton is a wounded eagle. Since the disappearance of his son Sean, six years ago, he's left his wife and devoted his days to the Pre-Crime Unit, and his nights to replaying ponderously maudlin home movies while sniffing neroine, a synth-narcotic. Blecch!

But enough about him. Let's talk about the Pre-Crime Unit. Pre-Crime depends on the visions of three Pre-Cogs, or psychics, whose advance knowledge of murders has allowed the police to prevent homicides for years. The Pre-Cogs don't foretell other crimes; apparently rapes and assaults don't create a disturbance in The Force. Also, the fact that these Pre-Cogs are essentially enslaved doesn't seem to trouble anyone. The Pre-Cogs' visions are captured onto a rather nifty hard drive, where they may be replayed to home in on location and time. The unified vision of the three also spits out, Lotto-like, balls bearing the names of the victim(s) and the murderer. Then the cops show up before the crime is committed, put a disabling "halo" onto the would-be murderer's head, and haul his or her ass to jail. One average workday, when Justice Department investigator Danny Witwer (Farrell) happens to be on-site, Anderton sees himself in the visions, and his name come up as the murderer. Desperate to prove his innocence, he runs, because, as the trailer tells us, "Everybody runs."

here are a host of troubling ideas here—enslavement; corporate data-mining taken to its logical extreme, and the corresponding loss of privacy; and the all-too-timely issue of giving up of liberty for safety. But not the least of these is the jailing of people who haven't actually committed crimes. What if you were shown yourself committing a murder? Isn't it likely that that knowledge would alter your behavior? Dick addresses this possibility explicitly in his short story. Apparently the filmmakers thought we wouldn't be able to get our minds around it. What Cruise sees is the inexorable future, even though he's repeatedly told, "You have a choice."

Meanwhile, the movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at—and really, it couldn't be otherwise, could it?—and filled with crackerjack performances, none of which are Cruise's. Colin Farrell is excellent. First of all, if Treat Williams and Brad Pitt had a baby, it would look like Colin Farrell; he's that gorgeous. Secondly, Scott Frank's (Out Of Sight, Get Shorty) screenplay gives Witwer a heck of a lot more personality than the source material did, and it's a welcome change. As the cocky, curate-cop, Farrell gets to be more than a melodrama bad guy for us to boo and hiss at. Sadly, he's one of the few complex characters here. Along the way we are treated to a truly disgusting black-market surgeon (Stormare) and his cuckoo assistant; a scientist who's willing to let evil triumph by doing nothing (Smith); and a freakish Nosferatu-like jailer (Nelson—does this man ever get to play a regular guy?). What's the deal? The baddies are all freaks of one sort or another; none of Hannah Arendt's banal evil for Spielberg. Plus, we get some tired SF tropes (What? Not the recluse who's in the story solely to babble all the secrets our hero needs to know!) and a couple of scenes that peg the gross-out meter (think eyes and A Clockwork Orange.

It's summer, it's hot, and it's Tom Cruise. The target audience couldn't be dissuaded if there were tanks in front of the theaters. Which is not to say that I'm desperate to dissuade people from seeing this movie. It's just that Minority Report, which barely addresses the crucial issue from which the story and the movie get their names, is a not-so-great movie story, mostly due to being dipped in the director's customary schmaltz. Nevertheless it stays with you for a long time, and I intend to see it again. At the screening, we got to see mini-trailers for Daredevil (kick-ass!) and for the upcoming film by that Steven (Soderbergh) I like, Solaris. Maybe you'll be that lucky too.

——Roxanne Bogucka

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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