I really love time travel stories. What I love is how they answer the question of whether you can change the future by going back in time. There have been lots of movies that asked this question from The Terminator to Back to the Future and most recently, The Time Machine. One of my favorites is The Final Countdown where a modern aircraft carrier somehow gets sent back in time to the day before Pearl Harbor. Of course, they find they can't change history. Minority Report puts an interesting new spin on this kind of story. In the future portrayed in Minority Report, there are no more murders. This is because they can be predicted and prevented. The so-called Pre-Crime unit of the police, run by Max von Sydow and Tom Cruise make use ``pre-cogs" who have the ability to see the future. They alert the pre-crime unit when they see a murder coming up. The cool new spin is that once the pre-cogs predict a murder, the ``murderer" is arrested before he/she actually does anything. The interesting question is whether, left to themselves, the perpetrators would always do the murder or whether they could decide not to do it. The title of the film comes from the fact that there are three pre-cogs and sometimes two of them see one future and one sees another. And since, like I said, the murders never happen, one doesn't really know what would have happened. In Minority Report, the head of the pre-crime unit (Cruise) is arrested for a murder that he claims he would never have committed.
This much is clear from seeing the trailer for the movie. I won't reveal anything else except to say that Minority Report is a well constructed story with some cool plot twists. It's a big improvement on Spielberg's last Sci-Fi outing, A.I. The main drawback of Minority Report is that it is way too slow at the beginning. An inordinate amount of time is spent explaining how the whole pre-crime thing works. Since it doesn't make that much sense to begin with, I'm not sure all that explaining is worthwhile. For instance, all that stuff about the wooden balls. Huh? The first hour of the movie when nothing is happening gives you the opportunity to notice how little things have changed in the year 2054 (my hundredth birthday). The main technological advance seems to be some cool flat-panel displays but other than that the big innovation is in highway onramps. In fact, Minority Report is a bit retro. When the pre-crime boys start flying around in their jet packs, it's like a 50's Sci-Fi film. The other thing to notice, while waiting for the movie to get going, is the upscale product placement including Lexus cars and Bulgari watches.
As soon as Cruise is accused of being about to murder someone, Minority Report starts to get really interesting. And it's worth the wait. The cast is great and Cruise does a good job here. Max von Sydow is his usual amazing self. He seems to have been around forever and in my case that is true since he was making movies before I was born. Plus he always looks the same. The supporting cast are all good including Cruise's fellow cops, Steve Harris and Neal McDonough. These guys are really good as they have shown on The Practice (Harris) and in Band of Brothers (McDonough) but are underutilized here. Colin Farrell is smoothly menacing as the guy chasing Cruise. And Samantha Morton does an excellent job of the playing the minority pre-cog. She has had practice for this role. She played a mute in Sweet and Lowdown. Peter Stormare (He and von Sydow are both Swedish) does another of his over-the-top roles as Cruise's ``eye" doctor. He is best known for playing Steve Buscemi's partner-in-crime in Fargo. And look for one of my old heart throbs, Jessica Harper (Stardust Memories, Pennies From Heaven), as one of the non-murder victims.
Minority Report is another
film made from a story by Philip K. Dick. He also wrote the stories
that inspired Blade Runner
and Total Recall.
There are a few echoes of Blade
Runner in Minority Report but the future isn't quite so bleak
and it isn't raining all the time. With all the attention that Homeland
Security is getting these days, it's somehow comforting to see that security
is still a problem 50 years from now. Gattaca
and Never Say Never Again
(Max von Sydow again) already showed that DNA and retinal scans don't work
but as usual (the only exceptions I can think of are Evolution
and Last Action Hero), the
people in the future of Minority Report have never seen any movies
so they are doomed to make the same movie mistakes over and over again.
Oh well, don't let that keep you from seeing Minority Report.