Minority Report

Movie Review by Kris Griffiths

Starring: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Max Von Sydow

Director: Steven Spielberg

Crime prevention eh? Many a sci-fi flick has taken us to a futuristic fantasy world where criminals actually get caught. The eighties gave us the fearsome flat-voiced ROBOCOP, the nineties gave us the funny flat-voiced JUDGE DREDD and now in the early noughties we are given the spectacularly named John Anderton, chief of the elite Pre-Crime unit.

Anderton (Cruise) shares a few things in common with his crime-busting counterparts: like Robo he suffers an earlier traumatic experience that forces him into his current profession, like Dredd he has a superior played by Max Von Sydow and is framed for a murder he didn’t commit (or did he?) and like both of them he commits himself wholeheartedly to a life of catching baddies. Only his methods are a tad more sophisticated.

In Washington DC 2054 there hasn’t been a single murder in six years thanks to the revolutionary ‘Pre-Crime’ system whereby murderers are caught and incarcerated before they have committed their crime. Three psychic mutants called ‘Pre-Cogs’ use psychic powers to predict murders before they happen and relay it all via fragmented images to Anderton who rushes out with his team to catch the baffled pre-criminal. The supposedly flawless system is running along nicely until a slimy Justice Department agent (Colin Farrell) turns up and starts nosing around in an attempt to find a fault and usurp Anderton’s job.

Things get worse when the Pre-Cogs foresee Anderton himself as being the killer in the next murder case although he doesn’t have a clue who the victim is. Of course he immediately goes on the run thinking he has been set up, making things worse for himself and playing right into the hands of his enemies. That’s all I can really divulge without ruining it all, though I can inform that the film is largely unpredictable and descends into a brain-straining string of twists and counter-twists.

It is this unnerving unpredictability that is the film’s foremost blessing, and to a minor extent its curse. The plot convolutions of the second half are taxing enough on the brain, but on top of this are all the metaphysical questions thrown up by the whole future continuum concept. I personally struggle with the theme of Anderton running from/running towards his destiny and the responsibility for one’s fate. Then there are some fleeting plot-holes such as the Pre-Cogs’ psychic powers – why are they only restricted to Washington?

But apart from the obligatory plot niggles, MINORITY REPORT is a first class affair that will appease the appetites of sci-fi fans everywhere. Cruise is solid throughout and it’s also nice to see a strong supporting cast comprised of lesser known stars – British actress Samantha Morton in particular pulling off a skilfully fragile performance as the most gifted Pre-Cog. And behind everyone is the dependable Von Sydow who, with his character repertoire ranging from Jesus to Ming the Merciless, settles comfortably into his all-too-familiar role.

Fans of the genre will be pleased to see that the movie retains elements of, but improves upon previous ventures of the kind including Spielberg’s A.I. Aside from DREDD and ROBOCOP it also draws parallels with other related futuristic works, namely the sleek silver tinged cinematography of THE MATRIX as well as the complexity of TOTAL RECALL.

In the latter respect, this could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the mental diligence of the viewer but one thing is for sure – there’s so much going on in MINORITY REPORT that one viewing isn’t nearly enough. Once you’ve got past the jargon-heavy exposition with all its ‘cognitive capacities’ and ‘cerebral outputs’ you’re faced with more twisting and turning than an eel on amphetamines. Whether you absorbed it all the first time or not, this is a movie you’ll definitely want to experience again.

5 out of 6 stars