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Can You See?

Minority Report’s Dark and Intriguing Future

By Amy Meadows

staff writer

Minority Report

Directed by Steven Spielberg.

Produced by Gerald R. Molen, Bonnie Curtis, Walter F. Parkes, and Jan Bont.

Starring Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, and Lois Smith.

Rated PG-13, 140 minutes.

Can you see?” Can you see a future where clairvoyants decide who will commit a crime and who won’t? Can you see a future driven by the assumption of guilt and the absence of innocence? The filmmakers ask throughout Minority Report, “Can you see?”

Tom Cruise stars as futuristic police chief John Anderton. In 2054, there is no crime; there is only intent to commit crime. With the help of clairvoyants called “precogs,” the pre-crime division of police captures criminals before they even are able to commit their crime. And the precogs are never wrong.

Imagine, then, Anderton’s horror when the precogs pin a murder on him, to be committed in 36 hours. Unwilling to believe that he can be guilty, he sets out on a desperate search to uncover the truth about himself and pre-crime. He runs; as the trailer claims, “Everybody runs.”

Anderton is searching for a little-known “minority report,” the rare occasion when one of the three precogs will disagree with the other two. The copies of the reports are destroyed, the only record remaining in the mind of the precog.

Cruise carries the movie by himself. In fact, if some movies are star vehicles, Minority Report is Tom Cruise’s Humvee limousine. The camera zooms in on Cruise’s face for all but perhaps fifteen minutes out of the one hundred and forty. Yet, Cruise is not the unblemished action star of Mission Impossible, but a troubled leader, with secrets and a past he strains to hold onto.

For their brief appearances, some of the supporting actors show a subtlety that Cruise cannot risk. Samantha Morton plays Agatha, a tormented precog. When she is pulled from her constant electrolyte bath by a frantic Anderton, and away from her constant visions of the future, she can hardly believe that what she sees is the present. Wanting someone to know what she sees and experiences, Agatha constantly asks Anderton, “Can you see?”

As a reclusive scientist who switched from taking care of drug babies who became precogs to engineering humanoid plants, Lois Smith adds to the dark undercurrent of Minority Report. She alerts Anderton to the possibility that the precogs have been wrong, a terrifying possibility for Anderton, considering the hundreds of people who were jailed on the assumption of guilt.

Minority Report is an incredibly sleek movie; Steven Spielberg, the director, could probably make a milk commercial seem sexy and intriguing. The special effects, including cars that travel vertically and police equipped with rocket packs, add to the gripping drama. The editing is fast-paced and engaging, and the sets are themselves a frightening view of the future, with a contrast between the sterile crime lab and the seedy underworld that thrives in spite of government invasion and intervention.

Although Minority Report deals with perplexing ethical issues, several remaining issues in the filmmaking make it difficult to fully grasp the significance and meaning. One is the constant stream of product placement. Every company from Gap to Nokia has a plug somewhere in the movie. Used to emphasize the 1984-like invasion of privacy by public institutions, the constant stream is annoying and detracts from the movie. The other problem is that, in classic Spielberg fashion, the ending is uplifting. Not that this is a problem in and of itself, but the ethical questions are simply answered by the ending. Relatively few Americans will go home to ponder the implications of pre-crime and a society without due process.

Minority Report is a sleek, futuristic Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg tag-team. With dark undercurrents but a happy ending, the two cinematic forces are forced to compromise.