In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. A man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.
In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent into the past, where a hired gun awaits - someone like Joe - who one day learns the mob wants to 'close the loop' by sending back Joe's future self for assassination.
In the year 2054 A.D. crime is virtually eliminated from Washington D.C. thanks to an elite law enforcing squad "Precrime". They use three gifted humans (called "Pre-Cogs") with special powers to see into the future and predict crimes beforehand. John Anderton heads Precrime and believes the system's flawlessness steadfastly. However one day the Pre-Cogs predict that Anderton will commit a murder himself in the next 36 hours. Worse, Anderton doesn't even know the victim. He decides to get to the mystery's core by finding out the 'minority report' which means the prediction of the female Pre-Cog Agatha that "might" tell a different story and prove Anderton innocent. Written by
It's an open secret: the Oscar is jinxed. Spielberg's triumph with "Schindler's List" was followed by the longest hiatus of his career, which was broken with ... "Jurassic Park II", a lifeless sequel of the kind you'd once have sworn he'd never make - the single worst and most anonymous movie he's ever directed ("Hook" had its moments). His next two films were improvements (there was nowhere to go but up): the first anonymous but not bad ("Amistad"), the second bad but not anonymous ("Saving Private Ryan"), but they were both pompous gestures which appear to have been designed to win still more awards; and it wasn't until eight years after "Schindler's List" that the skilled director of old times re-appeared (with "A.I." in 2001).
But he's well and truly back now, and I'm happy. I've even learned to welcome it when he makes decisions which infuriate me, so long as he makes them with the right kind of self-assured arrogance. I didn't like the voice-over at the end (we didn't need to be told that stuff; we could have worked it out), or the way he caved in to the modern tendency to be needlessly revolting (at least he don't play his gross-out moments for cheap laughs), or even the style of photography (it's easy to manipulate us into thinking the future is a grim place, if you push-process the film until even the images which in the normal course of events would be luscious and rich, are grimy and desaturated - there are other ways of getting colourless images, as Spielberg well knows, and many of them are better). Yet, in the end, big deal. The story is a knockout, the action is taut, the future rich, dazzling and believable. Spielberg is to be particularly congratulated on how completely he has avoided the unimaginative dystopia of "Blade Runner". The future we see here is a MIX of dream and nightmare, so convincing a mix that we can't always tell them apart.
Here's a measure of how good the movie is: in an interview, Spielberg revealed that he completely misunderstood the issues which drive the stories - and there's simply no way of telling this from the finished product. Unless Spielberg was just opportunistically latching on to the hook forced on him by a dim-witted journalist, he THOUGHT the movie was about how much freedom we are willing to give up in exchange for safety (in order to prevent terrorist attacks, for instance). This is interpretation is strained. Three people (the precogs) do indeed give up their freedom in order that millions of other people may be safer, and yes, there is an issue here. When one of the Crime Prevention officer says, "It's best not to think of them as human", I was surprised to find myself nodding in agreement. The benefits of the system are so great that OF COURSE I'd rather not look too closely into the burden that must be borne by three - just three - individuals. Aside from the three unfortunate precogs, nobody is asked to give up any freedom at all. (Except, of course, the freedom to commit murder. But under the law we are already unfree to commit murder, and a good thing too.)
The interesting issues that DO fall naturally out of the story concern the futility of revenge. After people who would otherwise have committed murder are prevented from doing so, they're sent to prison anyway, presumably on the grounds that that's what they deserve - and no doubt it IS what they deserve. But it's clear enough that locking these people up, however much it may be in the interests of justice, serves no purpose. It's exacting revenge on criminals for the sake of exacting revenge - which is exactly what the U.S. justice system is committed to doing at the moment, which is why the future is a realistic one. (Apart from the precognition, that is.) Anderton's mistake is to believe in the value of revenge, and he's never more admirable than when he realises his mistake. (THAT was a great scene; it's a pity I can't tell you exactly why. Suffice it to say that when we think we know where the story's going, we may indeed know where the story's going - but Spielberg is only allowing us to see so much of what's coming up in order to obscure the rest of it.)
The final sign that Spielberg is again at his peak lies in the performances. They're all good. Tom Cruise's weakness as an actor is that he is only ever as good as his director, and the fact that he's so good here means that "Minority Report" was directed by the real Spielberg, the old Spielberg, the Spielberg with the same ability Charles Dickens had to make even his most grotesque creations, and even his LEAST grotesque, come to life.
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