With A.I still fresh in the minds of those who had endured it, it was excusable to treat Minority Report with caution...
In Steven Spielberg's last two films, the infamous director has moved into an area of genuine contemporary concern: the future. His first foray into such concerns was the overlong, over sentimental A.I, an utterly disappointing film ultimately ruined by an appalling ending. With A.I still fresh in the minds of those who had endured it, it was excusable to treat Minority Report with caution. A.I had been based on an acclaimed novella, Super Toys Last All Summer Long, so there was a fear that despite an equally impressive literary backing (a short story by Bladerunner author Philip K. Dick), Minority Report could fall into the (typically Spielbergian) A.I traps. I very much enjoyed being proved wrong.
A lot of the excitement surrounding Minority Report was due to the first ever pairing of the world's most bankable director with one of the world's most bankable stars, Tom Cruise. It appears that this pairing, in what is effectively an intelligent action film, has revealed the perfect niche for Cruise. Set in the near future, Cruise plays John Anderson, head of a crime prevention experiment that uses premonitions from three 'pre-cogs' to stop murders before they happen. With the premonitions, there has not been a murder throughout the last six years in the guinea pig city of Washington. However, the police who work for the unit need to try and prove its worth to an investigator (superbly played by rising star Colin Farrell) before the experiment can go national. This is when the cracks start to appear (and the fun begins), as John Anderson's name is mentioned as a future murderer by the pre-cogs and he faces being hunted down by his own force. As the tagline says, 'Everybody Runs'.
The head of the pre-cog unit has to try and prove his innocence despite the accusations of a system he believed to be infallible. What follows is simply exhilarating. Anderson has no clue whatsoever who the man is that he is supposed to kill, he has the law after him and has run out people to trust. How can he escape the inevitable? The pace that Spielberg employs is indicative of a master at work. There is a marvellous scene in a shopping mall where Anderson is led around by kidnapped pre-cog (Samantha Morton). The premonitions that the pre-cog suffers instruct Anderson to carry out seemingly random actions. As the scene unfolds, not only are these actions explained, but also people appear and events occur that we know should happen prior to Anderson's crime. With only a few minutes remaining before the crime is supposed to take place, it seems as if Anderson is being inexorably drawn towards committing the felony he knew nothing about to a man he does not know. It is truly an edge-of-the-seat film.
Hollywood has often, appropriately enough, been accused of dumbing down serious issues to make them more palatable for mass audiences and essentially that is what Minority Report's detractors could accuse it of doing. The serious issue of personal freedom is explored within the framework of the undoubtedly morally corrupt idea of locking up criminals before they have committed any crime. The film that deals with these human concerns is undoubtedly flashy, swamped with product placements and very Hollywood. The notion of free will that the entire pre-cog unit ignores is skirted over and, possibly due to the complexity of the story, there are annoying plot flaws. However it is a Hollywood blockbuster that makes you think. Which, despite its few inevitable shortcomings, is surely better than the usual Hollywood blockbuster that all too often fails to provoke any thought whatsoever.