There is probably no busier filmmaker this year than Steven Spielberg. With "Minority Report", the upcoming "Catch Me If You Can", and all of his responsibilities at Dreamworks, I'd be surprised if he gets any sleep. He is also one of the filmmakers I have worried about most. He has created some of Hollywood's most beloved films, but recently he has started to go on a downward slope. His trademark Spielberg Shmaltz has been around forever, but these days it has started to take over his films. In his shaky failure "A.I"., many mistook his sappiness for emotional complexity; maybe they were just hungry for something resembling a real science fiction film. His latest film, "Minority Report", has just brought this disappointing streak to a screeching halt. It catapults Steven Spielberg back to the forefront of the multi-million dollar blockbuster directors.
Based on Phillip K. Dick's famous short story, "Minority Report" tells the story of Detective John Anderton (Tom Cruise). He is part of a special police force ("Precrime") that is able to stop murders before they happen. They do this by looking into the psychic visions of three genetically deformed beings nicknamed "Precogs", the strongest of which being the only female, Agatha (Samantha Morton). While an FBI agent (Danny Witwer, played by Colin Farrell) is investigating Pre-Crime, which director Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow) has great plans for, Anderton notices something stunning. The Precogs have just determined that he would commit murder.
"Minority Report" is Spielberg's most assuredly entertaining film since his "Indiana Jones" series. Obviously, something Spielberg has not forgotten is to make the most of the chase. When other filmmakers seem to have seen too many Road Runner cartoons, Spielberg always comes up with a way to mix it up a bit. In this film, he has devised one of the most exhilarating chase sequences since... well, ever. The stakes are never quite high enough for Spielberg without adding one little twist; I'm sure the only reason there was a boulder in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was so that Harrison Ford could run away from it, and it's very likely that the only reason cars climb buildings in "Minority Report"'s future is so Tom Cruise can leap between them. The whole thing blends together so seamlessly, and the camera (lead by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski) puts us so exuberantly into the middle of it all that we don't care what Spielberg throws in there just for fun.
That isn't all "Minority Report" has to offer (if it was, would it really deserve such high praise?) "Minority Report" does more than offer its ideas, it dives head on into them. The way John Anderton gets to where he does, by way of a prevision from the Precogs, sets up a predicament not unlike that in Shakespeare's "Macbeth". It creates a Mobius strip worth poring over. Numerous questions come to mind, such as how much was needed to get that chain of events to spark; how much does it take to drive someone to an extreme?
Possibly the most intriguing of all the questions "Minority Report" brings up is that which philosophers have been debating about and tearing their hair out over for decades: does anyone have free will, or are all events predestined to happen? This film offers fuel for both sides of the argument, but always counterbalances one piece of evidence with the next. It is this ambiguity that made "Memento" so much fun, after seeing this film you will have much to debate about with those you have seen it with.
If one could label "Minority Report" as something of a tragedy, that element would be found in the female Precog, Agatha. Yes, there is a brief conversation over what ethics there are in idealizing three people so much, but that is not the issue that matters. Its chilling to see that no one who works within the Precrime system realizes the absolute unethical, whoring nature of keeping the Precogs confined as they are. Once the film starts to view the situation through Agatha's eyes, the film changes in its entirety. Samantha Morton plays Agatha so brilliantly that we can completely understand her position. We see what happens when everything is taken away from someone who is then forced to take it back. We see what is really wrong with the Precrime system and the cruelty that lay within it.
Not to be put aside is the look of the film. Spielberg's main mistake with "A.I." was making that future much too pretty. Instead of being able to see where we were headed, the film felt distant, as if we were watching a fantasy instead of a science fiction. With "Minority Report", Spielberg gathered a group of "futurists" to brainstorm just what Washington, D.C. might look like sometime in the not-so-distant future, and the result is incredibly believable. I shall most likely live until 2054, and when that time comes, I would like to revisit this film and see just how accurate it was.
If you really need me to categorize, I would say that "Minority Report" is Steven Spielberg's best film since "Schindler's List". I would also say that this film is the best blockbuster of the summer, and may well end up being one of the very best films of the entire year. Right now, however, I will just say this: see the damn film, it'll be worth even the ridiculous amount one has to pay for movie tickets these days.