June 12, 2006
Movie Review By: SFAM
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Philip K. Dick (short story), Scott Frank & Jon Cohen (screenplay)
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium
Key Cast Members:
Overview: Minority Report, directed by Steven Spielberg, is another one of the large scale production cyberpunk movies that cleared a hefty gross (358 million worldwide, not counting DVD sales). Minority Report works both as a summer blockbuster (it was released in June), but also as a fairly intelligent cyberpunk flick. Based on another terrific story from Phillip K. Dick, Minority Report has a terrific cast headed up by Tom Cruise and Max Von Sydow, awesome special effects, and terrific music and sound FX throughout.
The Story: In Minority Report, Tom Cruise stars as John Anderton, a police chief at the head of an elite pilot police program, now in its sixth year, that prevents crimes BEFORE they are committed. The year is 2054, and the ability now exists within gifted, but altered people called “precogs” to tell when someone is about to commit a crime. The Precogs, comprised of two twins and one woman, Agatha (played wonderfully by Samantha Morton), are kept at all times in a dreamlike state in strange pool of water. The Precogs receive visions of murders that will be taking place. Based on an elaborate system that works off the Precogs, the police are able to extract the visions and are given the names of the murder victim and the murderer on color coded balls. Based on this, all premeditated murders have become a thing of the past – now the only murders that “might” take place are the crimes of passion, or “red balls” in Minority Report terms. When a red ball comes, the John Anderton must quickly work with the dreams to find the location of the murder (which often is only a few minutes or hours into the future) so that his team can rush to prevent it.
The end result of this technology is that people are being imprisoned for the crime PRIOR to committing it. Those who are identified by the Precogs are immediately sentenced to a strange virtual prison, where they are stuck in perpetual dreamstate (no word is given why they aren’t relegated to a normal prison). Through a quirky situation, John Anderton is brought in close proximity to the Precog, Agatha – she grabs him and fervently relays a vision that has occurred in the past. In tracking this down, John Anderton learns that sometimes one of the three Precogs actually deliver a vision that differs from the other two. This vision, termed a “Minority Report” is quickly discarded so as not to be seen as threatening the integrity of the process.
Anderton, plagued by the death of his son by an unknown assailant prior to the Precogs, has traditionally been the program’s biggest proponent. However, after learning of the Minority Report, he becomes concerned with the possibility that he has in fact been putting innocent people away. But unfortunately, his investigation into this matter has created powerful enemies. A new red ball vision is created, only this time Anderton finds out that HE is supposed to commit a murder in 36 hours. Convinced that he has been unfairly targeted, Anderton escapes from his former team and goes on a crusade to clear his name. His plight forces him to replace his eyes (used for retina scans at all security posts), and eventually takes him to the bottom of the Pilot Program’s seedy beginning.
Story Issues : Nevermind the issue that the creepy hacker dude is able to jury-rig a vision scanning and extraction device faster than Scotty can fix a warp drive, Minority Report has a major issue with the technology that’s really never taken seriously – the issue of freewill. If precogs really can see into the future and determine that someone “will” murder their intended victim, this negates the ability of choice at that last instant of the murder. While this is eventually addressed (no spoilers), there is no rationale provided for why freewill was ignored. In the end we are left with believing that over-zealous law enforcement personnel were able to convince the entire country to take this approach. While this is a fine plot point, it would have been far more believable had their been some indication that they actually had to do a massive conving job.
The Eyeball – the Ultimate Security Breach: The other issue with the story that really defies believability is that when John Anderton is caught, he is CONTINUALLY able to get back into the most secret areas of Police HQ by using his former eyeballs, which he keeps with him in a plastic baggie. Even though the police know he’s on the lamb, the apparently don’t feel the need to revoke Mr. Anderton’s security access privileges. This is all the more disbelievable considering EVERYTHING in society is apparently keyed off a retina scan. Sure, OK, perhaps one time they lapse on this, but three times??? Common Steven – you’re too good a story teller to let that one slide.
The Visuals: The visuals are sleek and well integrated, with some nice aqua and blue tones throughout. Interestingly, Spielberg usually goes with an overexposed type of shot to make it look almost as if one is looking at a dream sequence. Continually, we get white saturation dominating the shots. While this approach sounds weird, it ends up working wonderfully in adding to the mood of a cyberpunk film that has a massive focus on visions and dreams. As always, Spielberg gives us a plethora of truly unique visuals and mood shots. The best of the movie comes when Agatha
The FX: Minority Report consistently has absolute top-notch FX that adds interesting elements to the story. From the strange spider surveillance things, to the Boba Fett Police Podships, to the mixed modern cityscapes, the world of Minority Report comes off as a truly odd cyberpunked future. At some level, everyone seems to be living normal lives. Yet every now and then, we get a sense that the surveillance society has taken hold to the point that people have all just accepted it.
The Bottom Line: The overall mood and FX in Minority Report are terrific. The acting is great – Cruise has rarely been better, but also Von Sydow as the Police Director, Collin Ferrel as the scheming FBI agent, and Samantha Morton as the Precog are all terrific. The FX and sound If you buy the technology, chances are you give Minority Report at least a 9 or 10 star rating. Unfortunately, I did have problems buying some of this. Regardless, the story issues don’t take too much away from a very worthy cyberpunk film.