After the lukewarm reception that was received by A.I during its release, it seems strange that Spielberg was so willing to go back to the same science-fiction genre with Minority Report. But with the added assets of Tom Cruise, astounding special effects and a great story, Spielberg is back on top form again.
In the year 2054, crime is predictable and can be acted on before it is committed. John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is the top cop in the Pre-crime division.. The Pre-crime department relies on information from three 'Pre-cogs', precognitive humans who drift in a floatation tank and have their thoughts tapped by computers. They are able to pick up premeditated murders before they happen, and the Pre-crime division can the swoop down and arrest the would-be killers. The system is perfect and is wholly endorsed by Anderton and his boss, the director of Pre-crime division, Burgess (Max von Sydow).
As with most things in Washington, jealous eyes turn towards things successful. The Justice Department sends in young hotshot, Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) to investigate into finding any flaws within the system. Danny is immediately on Anderton and it transpires that he's after the top cop job in the Pre-crime division.
The real problems start for Anderton one day, when during a routine case, he is named as a killer in the near future. His victim is someone he's never even heard of. Before he knows what's hit him, he's got his entire team after him led by Witwer.
Anderton must either follow his destiny and kill; or find some way to prove his innocence, against a system that he believes in completely. Of course, if you managed to prove yourself innocent then you would inadvertently have opened the door to allow people to perform the perfect crime - one that is undetectable.
That's the premise of Minority Report and it proves that Spielberg is back on top form. An excellent story based on a short novel by Blade Runner scribe Philip K Dick helps and stops the recent trend of films sold on 'no story but look at the special effects'. The story isn't quite as straight forwards as you think with a few twists thrown in for good measure.
The special effects range from the subtle to loud and brash chases. However, unlike other films, they seem to blend in perfectly into the world of 2054. They are not just slapped in to show what computers can do. One of the most impressive effects is a scene where robotic 'spiders' swarm through a building conducting retinal scans on its inhabitants. It's made even more impressive due to the fact that the cross panning and camera travelling through a continuous shot of the building is done without the help of computers (just the 'spiders' are added later). It shows the excellent camera choreography of Spielberg.
The production design is just stunning, creating a very real and believable view of the future. Cereal boxes with jingles and adverts that scan passer-bys to personalise their pitches.
As for performances, Tom Cruise is very good as the hunter and then as the hunted. His character is more than the one-dimensional action star of other films. He isn't a perfect hero, yet manages to make us worry about him. Samantha Morton plays Agatha, one of the Pre-cogs who might hold the key to Anderton's innocence, and she is also excellent. Seeing her being half-carried by Anderton and seeing the contrast between these two characters is great (especially one point where they stand together in a Mall looking over each others shoulders).
Other performances are good too, with the stand out ones by Max von Sydow (unsurprisingly) and Colin Farrell. Sydow always excels class and brings a certain level of dignity to every character he plays and Farrell is really making his mark on Hollywood.
To conclude, where some directors are putting their faith into technology and special effects, Steven Spielberg, ironically a master of technology, places his faith in the hands of a sound script and performances. Special effects for him are a tool to be utilised and not just thrown in to dazzle. Tom Cruise isn't the star of this film, Spielberg retains that honour as a director but with the help of long time cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. A fine gem and a great example of modern film noir that shows us the not all of Hollywood is turning out crap.
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