Billed as a near future action movie - science fiction combined with science fact - Minority Report could also be viewed as a horror movie, one that shows us where technology could lead us if we don't consciously make the effort to protect our liberties.
Tom Cruise is Detective John Anderton, a man who's endured a terrible personal loss and now pours all of his grief and energies into his job as the lead officer in the Division of Precrime, an offshoot of the Department of Justice. The year is 2054, and, thanks to the Precrime program, there hasn't been a murder in Washington, DC in six years. The program's central core is the group of three psychics, called "pre-cogs" who foresee murders before they happen. The three - two men and a woman - are kept isolated from contact and Anderton tells a visitor that "it helps not to think of them as human." Central to the success of the unit is the fact that the psychics have never been wrong in their predictions.
As the program is readied to expand to the national level, a young and ambitious Department of Justice employee by the name of Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) visits Precrime to observe and audit. Anderton isn't thrilled, but cooperates because he must. Anderton's boss (Lamar Burgess, as played by veteran stage and screen actor Max von Sydow) sympathizes with Anderton and worries himself that he may lose control of the unit he started. Anderton defends the program to his guest, and touts its efficiency and its perfection in part for the sake of his boss, but also because he truly believes it. The DOJ official asks Anderton if it isn't problematic to arrest a man before he's committed any crime, and Anderton blithely denies any problem at all. And when Witwer agrees that the program itself is perfect but that human error could enter in, Anderton scoffs. Until, that is, the pre-cogs signal another murder is due to be committed and that the man behind it will be Anderton himself. Because Anderton has never seen the murder victim the pre-cogs insist he will kill in only 36 hours, he comes to the conclusion that the system isn't so perfect after all, and he runs both to escape incarceration as well as to try to figure out what went wrong.
The futuristic appearance of Washington, DC is skillfully done, perhaps because director Steven Spielberg took the time to consult with experts to get it right. In a meeting lasting several days, a group of MIT scientists, urban planners, inventors, and others carefully crafted the society and infrastructure of 50 years from now based on the trends of today. Special effects for the movie were handled by Industrial Light and Magic, still the best in the business despite the growth of competition over the years. When you see cars on freeways that actually slide up the sides of skyscrapers and police officers using personal jetpacks, you'll be hard pressed not to believe it's all real. Tom Cruise, always a credible action hero, gives a good performance here though he lacks some of the subtle nuances necessary to truly convey the depths of his personal pain. Max von Sydow and Colin Farrell are also very good. But I'm singling out for attention a young actress by the name of Samantha Morton. In her role as Agatha, the strongest of the pre-cogs, she's a mixture of strength and confusion, pain and compassion, intelligence and na´vetÚ that all combine to create a character we both believe in and ache for.
NOTE FOR FREEDOM FIGHTERS: Reports from the group Spielberg brought in to help invent a future all agreed on one salient detail: an almost total loss of privacy. The Washington of 2054 is blanketed by cameras everywhere which take quick retinal scans of all passers by. As each is identified, personalized advertising appears on walls next to their pathway, and storefronts address them by name. The police have the authority to scan at any time for any reason - or no reason - and people passively obey. I found this aspect of Minority Report utterly terrifying, not least because it was so completely believable.
FAMILY SUITABILITY: Minority Report is rated PG-13, primarily for violence. There is little strong language or sex, but there are several gruesome scenes that I don't believe are suitable for kids under 13. The mature teen will enjoy the movie, but I think it's really best suited for adults who are capable of grasping not just a gripping plotline and brilliant effects, but of pondering the repercussions of the type of society in which all the action takes place as well.
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