Sometimes the movie experience is no more than an escape from reality and an opportunity. Sometimes we need important, relevant social commentary and fantastical ideas delivered vicariously through the adventures and grand stories inherent in cinema. And sometimes we want to see familiar faces, proven faces doing what we want to do but can’t or choose not to, and in the case of Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film Minority Report, we’re interested in speculative fiction and a glimpse into the world of the future as it is so evidently informed by the world we live in today. Minority Report extinguishes our distractions, all routines, and it’s an enjoyable ride.
Minority Report is a stylish, futuristic sci-fi drama whereby murder and capital punishment is all but a crime of the past as a trio of special mentalists (called pre-cogs for their ability to predict the future) alert authorities to crimes that have not happened yet. Once determined, a special law enforcement rushes to stop the crime before it occurs but time is of the essence and they employ a myriad of advanced, perhaps implausible technology to get the job done. The unit is led by Tom Cruise, an erratic by-the-books cop by day and depressed drug addict by night, who delivers swift justice to the person for the “future crime of murder”. I suppose other crimes still exist but that’s not relevant in this tale. It sounds a little convoluted and it is to a certain degree but this does not take away from the grand story-telling prowess of Spielberg and the artful Mise-en-scène of master cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List). This is a sci-fi action adventure film and it makes no promises to change the genre or reinvent what works and what does not. Let us not forget we are talking about Steven Spielberg – who hasn’t seen at least one of his films in a career that spans 4 decades? Spielberg is a veteran of cinema and a leader in constructing high adventure stories that use archetypes and basic premises to their fullest potential. The characters are given believable, if not somewhat limited back-stories, fueled by Spielberg’s potent and deliberate use of themes of alienation, a powerful central character who is flawed and must overcome his often debilitating hubris, and family as a container for both the present and the past as it undoubtedly informs a self actualized future. The result is a movie populated with typical good guy-bad guy confrontations and while the ending is at times too heavy for its own good, the film ultimately entertains while Cruise reminds us why he remains one of the top big screen action stars of the past two decades.
Steven Spielberg is a brand name and it is unthinkable that you haven’t seen at least one of over 40 films he’s directed, or the 125 he’s produced and the dozen’s he’s written. To say he is an eclectic filmmaker is obvious, to say he operates within certain predefined boundaries is evident if you begin to examine his work, yet his films engage the senses with action and adventure that are not limited by time, space, or genre. He is perhaps best known and lauded for his earliest work, though he continues to make vastly successful films along with some of the biggest names in film like George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, John Milius and Brian De Palma (collectively often referred to as the “Movie Brats”). Spielberg is a screenwriter, film producer, video game designer and studio executive and one of the founders of the DreamWorks movie studio. His earliest films like Jaws and E.T. are considered as part of the beginning of what we now consider the blockbuster movie. He has tackled high action-adventure films, like Indiana Jones, E.T., and Jurassic Park, as well as dramatic and serious films like Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and The Color Purple. In 2002 he directed Minority Report, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick (Bladerunner) with Tom Cruise in the starring role and his customary production team he is fond of working with on many of his projects.
Minority Report has a standing rating of 92% at rottentomatoes.com, Roger Ebert scored the film a 100 at metacritic.com, going on to add a glowing review at rogerebert.com calling this film “an awesomely virtuoso futurist thriller”. Yet it does not go without detractors, such as Geoff Andrew for Time Out who writes, “The fashionably fussy, funky veneer may convince some that the films serious, but it’s finally another chase pic, murky in detail, muddled in ideology and strangely predictable in dramatic thrust.” One thing is certain; Spielberg and Cruise make for a potent combination delivering a picture that was widely successful both internationally and domestically. According to boxofficemojo.com, the film’s budget of $102 million dollars tripled in receipts earning over $350 million at the box office, solidifying Spielberg’s appeal and Tom Cruise’s ability to infuse characters with a broadly appealing, frequently successful complexity that crosses demographics and keeps him in the spotlight. As of the writing of this review, Cruise has three films in production and since 2002 completed 9 films. Spielberg has three films in production that he is attached to direct and 15 projects as executive producer. In 2006, according to wikipedia, Premiere ranked Cruise as Hollywood’s most powerful actor with a rating of 13 on the magazine’s 2006 Power List. The same year, Forbes magazine ranked him as the world’s most powerful celebrity. Minority Report may not be the best film for either stars but in holds its own against many competitors in the genre, signifying careers that continue to expand and highlights the brightest big-picture films from the Hollywood machine.
Minority Report is fun for all the reasons you go to an escapist film – high, if not improbable adventure, tantalizing cat and mouse chase sequences, technology imaginatively realized and artfully skewed, and the occasional well placed monologue from the hero who faces death and at the end of the day saves himself and humanity while he’s at it. Movie ratings don’t always give the clearest picture for why you should or should not see a film. If you are like me, you’ve probably gone against the grain to see a film or avoid it while others seem lost in accolades — see my review of Inception. At review aggregators like rottentomatoes and metacritic, individual commentary from the likes Roger Ebert and A.O Scott who raved about this film, along with Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips who along with Ebert considered Minority Report one of the decade’s best, there is a lot of evidence for watching this film at least once. However ratings and reviews don’t always make a film worthy – though it certainly does not hurt – but broad appeal, critical praise, and big big box office receipts makes a film a must see no matter how much you resist the urge. Who knows, you might just find a thrill ride, escapist joy, and a chance to touch the electricity of cinema that fills the screen and leaves no prisoners.