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Minority Report

Fifty years into the future, apparently, they have figured out a way to forecast murder and prevent it; thats the basic premise of the new Tom Cruise/ Steven Spielberg film based on a Philip K. Dick short story (and Philip K. Dick is also the man who wrote what became Blade Runner, so in my book he has a lot to answer for). Minority Report concerns itself not only with a preventative justice system, but also with some of the good old basic concerns of man: greed, pride, temptation, and so on. At its heart it is essentially a spy thriller with a lot of neat gadgets. Cruise plays John Anderton, the point man who leads the brawn who enforces the psychics who foresee the crimes. John is skilled at interpreting the flashes the precogs give him, and Spielberg (clumsily) directs him as if he is an orchestra conductor during these sequences. But we pick up that John is very skilled at his job, that he believes in the preventative crime system, and also that, clich to so many police roles, he has deep seated emotional problems that you know are going to bite him in the ass along about the third reel. When a call comes in (so to speak) that fingers John as a killer, then we know that the tables are turned, the hunter becomes the hunted, etc. etc. So far it could be a slightly better directed version of Judge Dredd (complete with Max Von Sydow as the aged director of the department/ surrogate father figure). Except that Minority Report hired better actors, and has a slightly better script. The future is pretty well realized, though they cheat on that a bit (with retinal scanning stations every ten feet, am I really supposed to believe that a guy could hide behind a cluster of balloons?); but essentially they do a fair job selling us that this is fifty years hence. The technology doesnt seem too far fetched (except for the little mechanical spiders youve seen in the ads) and a lot of it is frankly very neat: magnetic cars that glide along the roadways vertically as well as horizontally, tiny phones that fit the ear like small hearing aids, and moving ads every-every-everywhere (my favorite touch was when a Gap store recognized a customer and asked him how he enjoyed his recent purchase). The scene in the public transit station where the billboards call to you by name felt particularly realistic. And annoying, like they would be. But at its heart, Minority Report is too convoluted and too easy to decipher. One of the rules of a mystery is that Im not supposed to figure it out too early; but if youre going to drop the hammer on me earlier in the film, at least make it have some resonance (like when James Cromwell shocks us by shooting Kevin Spacey in the middle of L.A. Confidential). I knew long before they unraveled the very tangled web where they were going with it, and Spielberg and co. really tried hard not to tip their hand. But they do, in fairly obvious fashion. Cruise gives a decent performance. He can be very very good (Born on the Fourth of July) and here hes only good, not great. Max Von Sydow, pretty reliable, is fine here. Most of the rest of the cast is adequate, though none stand out or are particularly noteworthy. Minority Report does have a few first-rate action sequences that top anything out this summer. One car chase is reckless fun, and a fight with people using jetpacks was simply brilliant (and far better than the action sequence in that other film this summer with a guy with a backpack). Overall Minority Report focuses a tad too much on the neato future and not enough on making sure the plot makes sense. I just felt like it was about a half hour too

long, and there were one or two plot twists too many not unlike that "get to it already" feeling I got in the last third of Against All Odds. In the end, Minority Report shares many of the same ills as Spielbergs last film, A.I. Neat concept work but weak in the delivery. Maybe theres a reason why most of Dicks works were short stories. June 25, 2002

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