It looks like I'm about to cast myself as the dissenting vote on Minority Report. Critics are hailing it as Spielberg's best work in years. Lavishing it with a a host of praises traditionally reserved for legitimate classics. I can't do it. Minority Report is long, Minority Report is soulless, and most of all Minority Report is boring.
Sure, it's got Tom Cruise, an actor with a mission playing the type of role I think he plays best, the "man on the run". But I can't tell you he's good. Instead, let me tell you that in the year 2054 Tom Cruise is the nation's top cop in D.C.'s Pre-Crime division. Pre-Crime is a grand, idealistic law enforcement agency being put to use in the nation's capital. At the heart of it, are the Pre-Cogs, three pre-cognitive humans held in an almost lifeless state, hooked up to machines, all of which enables them to see murders before they happen. Cruise and his men use this information to capture, convict, and imprison would be murderers BEFORE they commit the crime.
On its own, the concept is a winner, the stuff of hard edged, thoughtful sci-fi; something rarely seen on movie screens any more. But Spielberg fails to take it anywhere, despite delivering a stylistically impressive film. After a few minutes of watching Cruise's John Anderton on the job, things go horribly wrong. Now Cruise is wanted for a murder he has yet to commit, convicted in the death of a man he has never met. Like any good character from a Phillip K. Dick story (upon which the film is based), Anderton runs. Everybody runs, but he's looking for answers and is willing to do anything to get them.
I'm not going to wax on about the obvious plot holes and inconsistencies in the film, which is what the woefully few other negative reviews of the film seem to obsess on. But I can't ignore them either. Minority Report sets up a set of rules and facts about its universe, then paves over and rewrites them to fill miscellaneous gaps. For instance, the film makes it clear that since Pre-Crime was instituted 6 years ago, there has been a 90 percent drop in murder. Five minutes later a cop turns around and says that there hasn't been a murder in 6 years. What happened to that 10 percent?? Weirdly, when Anderton starts to run, the plot really unravels. He's a druggie obsessed with the death of his son, who joined the Pre-Crime division to develop ways to use it to keep what happened to him from happening to anyone else. Except... Pre-Crime ONLY works on murders, they cannot predict other crimes. Which would be fine, except that we discover as John runs that his son was not murdered, he was kidnapped. John has no idea whether or not he is dead or alive! Pre-Crime couldn't have saved his son, so why is Spielberg foisting the kidnapping of his child on us as motivation for his Pre-Crime activities?
Enough about plot holes, they aren't the problem. I can pound my head against the back of my poorly padded Cinemark seat and easily ignore them. Minority Report fails to live up to the hype not because of some inconveniently prevalent plot gaps, but because the thing has no SOUL. Director Steven Spielberg's strength, beyond his amazing showmanship, has always been his ability to cut straight to the heart of his characters and his audience. Minority Report, even more than his last mediocre flick, A.I., is cold. Most characters are barely developed, and those that are seem more like a set of facts than warm human creatures with real hearts and minds. Really, Cruise's character is the only one with much depth at all, but even Anderton still comes off as a hollow shell rather than a real person. He's a man in pain. He's lost his son. He lost his wife. He takes drugs to dull the ache and watches poor quality 3D home movies to fill the void. But it's empty. These are just things he does. There's no real sense of the suffering he's enduring, no evidence at all of the kind of turmoil a man like this must be encasing. He's just this guy and all that back story is just a sidebar.
There are glimpses... glimpses of what Cruise's Anderton character could have been. Especially when he finally confronts the man he's supposed to murder. Then there's conflict and honest to goodness humanistic LIFE! However, it's only a moment before the film returns to the cold monotony of it's previously plodding course. The thing is, even without a soul, it ought to be more entertaining. This is a chase movie, a man hunt. Excitement alone might be able to carry us through. It's just not there. There are scenes that SHOULD be scintillating, like a jet pack chase through the city, or Cruise leaping from car to car on an ultra-futuristic highway. Even though Spielberg's futuristic vision is really deeply constructed and amazing in style and concept, there's just no real UMPF behind these scenes. They're fun to watch, but there's none of the intensity that I'd expect from this type of film. Instead, it just goes on and on and on till it reaches a point when it should have ended, but chooses instead to keep right on going, leaving me looking at my watch.
But lets give Minority Report some credit. It's stylistically beautiful, with an incredible futuristic vision and exquisitely cold blue coloring that splashes across the screen with an electricity almost its own. Often, this is broken up and damaged by Spielberg's choice to use the MTV style shaky camera... a thing which I loathe more than any other since it makes it impossible to really see or enjoy anything that's going on. The picture is distorted, the intensity of the mood broken and battered as the camera vibrates around the screen. Yet the beauty is there, the sequences masterfully conceived and played out. John Williams' score beats its way through it all, setting itself apart in my mind as some of the best work he's done since Jurassic Park.
Minority Report is one helluva concept that's just never really explored. Like any good, hard nosed piece of sci-fi, it raises complex questions about government, justice, and pre-destiny but lacks the focus or sensibility to completely delve into them. Just as Spielberg's other attempt at future sci-fi A.I. was,, Minority Report is an imaginative and beautifully styled vision of the future that doesn't know when or how to end. Minority Report is exactly what the title indicates, a report.
By Mike Reyes
By Mike Reyes
By Dirk Libbey