Max Von Sydow
It’s 2054 and a trial project has eliminated murder. A department of pre-crime has been founded in Washington DC, using three “Pre-Cogs”, beings who dream visions of murder before they are due to happen. They’ve never been wrong as far as anyone knows, and complex computer systems project their visions on to state-of-the-art screens on which the predictions can be seen by law enforcement officers.
The system for catching criminals before they commit crimes has proved popular, with potential murderers being stacked away in suspended animation in a gigantic prison. Nobody questions the system, until the top man at the Department of Pre-Crime, Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) becomes a murder suspect and finds he must fight against the system he has been enforcing for so long.
So begins Minority Report, a thriller with a twist – not so much a ‘whodunnit’ as a ‘who will do it and when’. Based on Blade Runner author Philip K Dick’s story, the plot is set amidst a world that is at times fantastically futuristic and at times little different to today.
It doesn’t always work, for the ‘Magnetic-Levitation’ system of vehicle movement and the whle set piece of the Pre-Cogs are surely of the realms of fantasy rather than a realistic sci-fi vision of our world 40 years from now. But when there’s so much else on offer to absorb the attention and provoke thought, this would be quibbling unnecessarily.
Cruise shows no signs of entering middle-age cruise control as he again takes on many of his own stunts and proves yet again why he remains an A-list star more than 20 years since his big screen debut. His character is darker than we’re used to seeing from him, a hero certainly but by no means a flawless one who inhabits a world of shadows and shadowy people.
Samantha Morton, as the leader of the Pre-Cogs, is superb, giving a broad range of emotions from her shorn-headed character, and veteran Max Von Sydow is pitch-perfect as Anderton’s mentor about whom not everything is as it seems. Ballykissangel star Colin Farrell shines in his biggest role to date, as a slimy government agent who sets out to trap Anderton before he can escape “justice”.
Steven Spielberg’s mindblowing sci-fi creativity, last seen in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, offers us a world generated not just by CGI effects but by other pioneering film methods, modelling and imagination. Specially constructed cars, Janusz Kaminski’s typically breathtaking cinematography and a less than usually bombastic score by John Williams combine with one of the film world’s creative geniuses to produce a film that is at once intellectually challenging and visually stunning.
It is clear that Spielberg wants to challenge himself these days – surely the mark of a man who is already a living legend, whatever his occasional directing flaws may be. Far from film making by numbers, this is a man who enjoys pushing the outer limits of his art and still never loses sight of the popular touch.
Minority Report develops Spielberg’s ideas one step further from the likes of A.I. to end up as a stunning piece of moviemaking, giving Cruise and everyone else involved, from cinematographer downwards, the opportunity to excel. With only the merest of unforced errors and with plenty to astound and delight, Minority Report is Spielberg’s best film since Schindler’s List. Go and see it, at least to see how mainstream movies can be made, and to witness a unique talent at the height of his craft.