Minority Report (2002)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #61

Everybody runs

Country: USA
Language: English
Runtime: 145 minutes
BBFC: 12
MPAA: PG-13

Original Release: 20th June 2002 (Australia)
US Release: 21st June 2002
UK Release: 4th July 2002
First Seen: cinema, July 2002

Stars
Tom Cruise (Born on the Fourth of July, Mission: Impossible)
Samantha Morton (Morvern Callar, Synecdoche, New York)
Colin Farrell (Tigerland, In Bruges)
Max von Sydow (The Virgin Spring, Shutter Island)

Director
Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, War of the Worlds)

Screenwriters
Scott Frank (Out of Sight, The Wolverine)
Jon Cohen

Based on
The Minority Report, a short story by Philip K. Dick.

The Story
Washington, D.C., 2054: a special police department, PreCrime, arrests murderers before they even commit a crime, using information gained from three ‘precogs’ who have visions of the future. When the precogs report PreCrime’s captain, John Anderton, will kill a man he doesn’t even know, he goes on the run to prove his innocence.

Our Hero
PreCrime Captain John Anderton believes in the infallibility of the system, no doubt motivated by the disappearance of his son years earlier, which has also left him a divorced drug addict. He’s played by Tom Cruise, so of course he’s charming and heroic nonetheless.

Our Villains
The PreCrime unit is under consideration for nationwide adoption, so is being audited by sceptical Department of Justice agent Danny Witwer when Anderton is accused. While Witwer might seem antagonistic, you know there’s some other Big Bad behind the whole thing…

Best Supporting Character
Agatha, the lead precog, who sometimes has a different vision to the other two, which produces the so-called ‘minority report’ that may prove Anderton’s innocence — so he breaks her out. Unsurprisingly, an individual who spends her life hooked up to a machine in some kind of dream-state while having visions of different futures isn’t necessarily suited to the real world.

Memorable Quote
Fletcher: “John, don’t run.”
Anderton: “You don’t have to chase me.”
Fletcher: “You don’t have to run.”
Anderton: “Everybody runs, Fletch.”

Memorable Scene
So he can’t be identified by the future’s ubiquitous iris scanners, Anderton has undergone an eye transplant with a dodgy backstreet surgeon. He’s told he can’t take the bandages off for 12 hours or he’ll go blind. While he’s still convalescing, police searching for him arrive at his location. With thermal imaging confirming how many people are in the building, they unleash spider robots to scour each floor and scan everyone’s eyes. Hearing their approach, Anderton attempts to hide in an ice bath, but the thermal scan notices his disappearance. The officers close in on his location, as do the spiders… but he can’t take his bandages off… but the officers will recognise him…

Technical Wizardry
Cinematographer Janusz Kamiński gave the film a very distinctive visual style, described by one critic as looking “as if it were shot on chrome, caught on the fleeing bumper of a late ’70s car”. Aiming for a film noir feel, the shoot was deliberately overlit, then the film was bleach-bypassed in post-production, a process that desaturates the colours but gives the blacks and shadows a high contrast. Kamiński used the same technique on Saving Private Ryan. Here, coupled with the chrome-and-glass production design, it succinctly evokes a dystopian future.

Making of
Spielberg wanted the film’s near-future world to be based in reality rather than the usual extravagant imaginings of science fiction. To create this plausible future, he convened a three-day ‘think tank’ of fifteen experts, including architects, computer scientists, biomedical researchers, and futurists. Their ideas didn’t change key points of the film’s story, but did influence the creation of the world. Production designer Alex McDowell maintained a “2054 bible”, an 80-page guide listing all of the architectural, socio-economic, political, and technological aspects of the future decided by the think tank. The film’s Wikipedia article has a whole section about technologies seen in the film that have since come about or that are in active development.

Next time…
A sequel TV series aired last year (with none of the original cast (well, except for one)). It didn’t go down very well with either critics or viewers, and swiftly had its episode order reduced before being completely cancelled.

Awards
1 Oscar nomination (Sound Editing)
1 BAFTA nomination (Visual Effects)
1 World Stunt Award (Best High Work)
4 Saturn Awards (Science Fiction Film, Supporting Actress (Samantha Morton), Director, Writing)
7 Saturn nominations (Actor (Tom Cruise), Supporting Actor (Max von Sydow), Music, Costumes, Make-Up, Special Effects, DVD Special Edition Release)
Nominated for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form

What the Critics Said
“Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report doesn’t look or feel like anything he’s done before, yet no one but Spielberg could have made it. Ferociously intense, furiously kinetic, it’s expressionist film noir science fiction that, like all good sci-fi, peers into the future to shed light on the present. The director couldn’t have known, when he and writers Scott Frank and Jon Cohen set about adapting Philip K. Dick’s short story, how uncannily their tale of 2054 Washington, D.C., would resonate in [2002’s] political climate, where our jails fill up with suspects who’ve been arrested for crimes they haven’t yet committed.” — David Ansen, Newsweek

Score: 90%

What the Public Say
“This film is an excellent example of why Steven Spielberg is one of the great master directors of American cinema. It’s a perfect balancing act, a movie that sacrifices neither ideas nor action, nor emotion, nor mystery, in the service of its story. […] How can we categorize this movie? It is a sci-fi neo-noir that prefers to tell its story on Earth and with humans, much like Blade Runner (1982) and Gattaca (1997). It’s a twisty mystery, a classic whodunit of double-crosses, murder, and troubled pasts. It’s also an innocent-man-on-the-lamb chase movie, not unlike The Fugitive (1993). And it all fits together; it works, it feels like, yes, this is the way this story should be told.” — David, The Warden’s Walk

Verdict

Spielberg once described Minority Report’s story as “fifty percent character and fifty percent very complicated storytelling with layers and layers of murder mystery and plot,” which I think is indicative of why it’s such a successful experience: it mixes exciting, propulsive plot and action sequences with thematic concerns that use science-fiction ideas to explore real-world issues, both tangible (the prevalence of state control and policing) and metaphysical (free will vs determinism). It makes for a rounded, thrilling movie.

#62 will be your mission… should you choose to accept it.

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6 thoughts on “Minority Report (2002)

  1. Yeah, one of Spielbergs best, I would have liked him to stay with this adult genre stuff more. Its not perfect and it lacks the courage to see its end to its inevlitable Brazil-like conclusion (its all a halo-fantasy in my book). But its a superior slice of sci-fi film, especially compared to the infantile junk we get these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember being very pleased it eventually had a happy ending when I first saw it, but I was younger then, of course. As it’s Spielberg, I should never have expected anything else! Not watched it for a few years so not sure how I’d feel about it now.

      What’s a real shame about the current strain of brain-light blockbusters is that films like Minority Report prove you can have ideas and still function as an exciting action movie, if that’s all a viewer wants to get out of it. It takes a director with clout to make that happen. Well, maybe it always has — it’s not like brainless movies are a new phenomenon. At least Chris Nolan still gets to have a stab at it, I suppose.

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      • I wouldn’t exactly give Chris Nolan a pass. Interstellar is incredibly stupid in places. The basic premise (a guy travels to the far side of the galaxy and winds up in his daughter’s bookcase) is astonishingly dumb when you think about it. As is building a rocket adjacent to a conference room.It’s no 2001, whatever people say. Not much of Inception really makes sense when you break it down. I really think Nolan gets too much slack from critics.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s true, but at least he gets a chance. I suppose I don’t know if it’s better or worse that someone gets a chance but somewhat squanders it. Could perhaps point to Neill Blomkamp as an even less successful example of the same!

          Liked by 1 person

        • God yes and I’d count Ridley Scott on that list of directors who should be making better, more thought-out genre films. The Martian is an example of what he can do with a solid script. But again, its all about the script isn’t it? If the studio likes what it has, is the director in a position to say no, hold on, it needs more work? Especially when there is a multi-million dollar film gearing up to production with studio space booked etc. I’m sure studio space is booked before scripts are even finished. Maybe thats what befell Prometheus.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, they do the whole darn schedule before scripts are even finished, right up to the release date. I was reading an article about Suicide Squad‘s production woes the other day, and how one of the issues these tentpoles have is that there’s so much else surrounding their release (merchandise, tie-in promotions, etc) that there’s absolutely no room to push them back even a week or two to fix a behind-the-scenes problem, they have to hit that exact date that was set a couple of years in advance. I think it’s the clout to say “we make it when the script’s done” that marks out the big-name directors, and is the exact reason why they hire cheap newbies for a lot of blockbusters.

          Prometheus‘ screenplay problems were just Ridley having bad ideas, as I remember! The earlier drafts before they changed screenwriter sounded much better. And that’s how he screwed up Robin Hood, too.

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