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.

Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut (1982/1992)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #13

The original cut of the futuristic adventure.


For clarification: as I didn’t see The Final Cut until after 100 Films started, and I’ve still not seen the theatrical cut, it’s only the 1992 Director’s Cut that is eligible for this list.

Country: USA, UK & Hong Kong
Language: English
Runtime: 116 minutes
BBFC: 15
MPAA: R

Original Release: 25th June 1982 (USA)
UK Release: 9th September 1982
Director’s Cut Release: 11th September 1992 (USA) | 27th November 1992 (UK)
First Seen: DVD, c.2001

Stars
Harrison Ford (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark)
Rutger Hauer (Soldier of Orange, The Hitcher)
Sean Young (No Way Out, Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde)
Edward James Olmos (Wolfen, Battlestar Galactica)
Daryl Hannah (Splash, Kill Bill)

Director
Ridley Scott (Alien, The Martian)

Screenwriters
Hampton Fancher (The Mighty Quinn, The Minus Man)
David Peoples (Unforgiven, Twelve Monkeys)

Based on
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a novel by Philip K. Dick.

The Story
L.A., 2019: cop Rick Deckard is dragged out of retirement to hunt and ‘retire’ a gang of Replicants — genetically-engineered androids, almost indistinguishable from humans, used for menial work off-world — who have come to Earth to extend their lives. As Deckard investigates, he comes to question what it means to be human…

Our Hero
Rick Deckard, former blade runner — which means nothing but does sound fairly cool. May or may not be a Replicant. (“He is!” “He isn’t!” “He is!” “He isn’t!”)

Our Villain
Roy Batty, definitely a Replicant. Committed the crime of wanting to live.

Best Supporting Character
Rachael — secretary, love interest, Replicant but believes herself to be human. Do we see a theme developing here?

Memorable Quote
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.” — Roy Batty

Memorable Scene
At the imposing headquarters of the Tyrell Corporation, blade runner Holden sits employee Leon in front of a strange machine. He begins to administer a Voight-Kampff test, a series of questions designed to provoke a response that the machine analyses. “You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand, when all of a sudden you look down…” “What one?” “What?” “What desert?” Leon’s test isn’t going to go according to plan…

Memorable Music
The synthesised score by Vangelis should by all rights sound terribly dated and oh-so-’80s by now, yet it’s somehow timelessly futuristic.

Technical Wizardry
Visually, Blade Runner is a non-stop marvel: the noir cinematography, the vehicle and set design, the lived-in world, the believable effects… The entire thing is imaginatively conceived and magnificently realised with unwavering plausibility.

Truly Special Effect
The realisation of future-L.A. airspace — packed with giant skyscrapers, videoscreen adverts, flying cars, at night and in the rain — is literally faultless, and only gains impact for being achieved for real with models.

Making of
The Director’s Cut came about after a 70mm print was discovered in storage and an LA cinema got permission to screen it at a film festival in 1990. Only then did anyone realise the print was the workprint version of the film. Warner Bros organised more screenings, advertising them as a “Director’s Cut”. Ridley Scott wasn’t best pleased, which led to some screenings being cancelled. The rest sold out, however, and so Warner decided to create a genuine Director’s Cut. With Scott busy on other projects, film preservationist and restorer Michael Arick was put in charge, using notes and suggestion from Scott to do the best he could. Although Scott considered it better than the theatrical cut, he was never wholly happy with the ’92 version, which ultimately led to the creation of The Final Cut another 15 years later.

Next time…
Between 1995 and 2000, Philip K. Dick’s friend K.W. Jeter continued Deckard’s story in three novels, which apparently attempt to resolve the differences between Blade Runner and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In 1997, Westwood Studios and Virgin Interactive released a “sidequel” point-and-click adventure game, where you play as another blade runner in a storyline that takes place alongside the movie (it’s excellent, by the way, though I imagine you’d have a nightmare making it run today due to its age, which is a shame). Finally, a long-mooted sequel is in development for a January 2018 release.

Awards
2 Oscar nominations (Art Direction-Set Decoration, Visual Effects)
3 BAFTAs (Cinematography, Costume Design, Production Design)
5 BAFTA nominations (Editing, Make Up Artist, Score, Sound, Visual Effects)
4 Saturn nominations (Science Fiction Film, Supporting Actor (Rutger Hauer), Director, Special Effects)
Won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation.

What the Critics Said
“This is, [Scott] says, the version he would have released in 1982 if he could have. The Ford narration was added because the studio feared audiences would not understand his story of a futuristic Los Angeles. The new ending, which is ironic and inconclusive and gives Ford an existentialist exit line, was of course dropped by studio executives for a more standard violent outcome. I watched the original Blade Runner on video a few years ago, and now, watching the director’s cut, I am left with the same over-all opinion of the movie: It looks fabulous, it uses special effects to create a new world of its own, but it is thin in its human story.” — Roger Ebert

Score: 89%

What the Public Say
“Its such a dark movie, but such a sad movie too. The sadness threatens to overpower everything. A character has her whole life undermined when she learns she isn’t real, not even her memories or experiences. It’s all a lie, a fabrication, as she is herself. Rick Deckard may not even be real. He might be just the same as Rachael. It’s not an idea I subscribe to, but it’s there, a possibility hanging over everything, underlined by the origami unicorn that he finds at the close of the film.” — ghost of 82

Elsewhere on 100 Films
I reviewed The Final Cut in 2009, noting that it was “undeniably one of the most significant films of the last quarter-century thanks to its enduring influence. […] its dystopian future — all constant night-and-rain, busy streets, neon advertising, canyon-like decrepit skyscrapers towering over dirty streets, high technology rubbing with the everyday detritus of humanity — has been copied everywhere. Without this there’d probably be no Ghost in the Shell, no Dark City, no Matrix, no re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, no thousand other things that have nothing close to the brains but do have the look, the style, the feel.”

Verdict

Blade Runner remains something of a divisive film: its thoughtful pace is not to everyone’s taste, especially if they’re expecting a sci-fi action-thriller starring Future Indiana Jones. Instead, it’s a philosophical sci-fi noir, as concerned with issues of what it means to be human as with chases or punch-ups. Remixing sci-fi and film noir influences in a fresh style, realised with some of the greatest design, set-building, and special effects of all time, it’s been inestimably influential on swathes of sci-fi that followed in its wake — and yet, almost 35 years on, it still looks futuristic and feels unique.

#14 will be… Troubled.

Total Recall (1990)

2010 #77
Paul Verhoeven | 108 mins | TV (HD) | 18 / R

Post Inception, it feels like we should be seeing a revival of interest in all things Total Recall, concerned as it is with dreams, fake memories, and what’s real and what isn’t. On the other hand, aside from an ambiguity about whether the lead character is dreaming or not — which adds texture but, arguably, is unimportant to the film’s primary thrills — there’s not that much to read into it.

For me, the joy of Total Recall is in discovering another ’80s blockbuster (ignore the fact it was released in 1990), the kind of thing I grew up watching on rented videos and BBC One Bank Holiday schedules; films like the Indiana Joneses, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Burton’s Batman, and all the rest (I feel I’ve used these examples before; I must have some others), whose practical effects and general style and tone — not a conscious effort by these filmmakers, I’m sure, but instead just How Hollywood Films Were Then — vividly recalls that era for me; films that at the time were, to my young eyes and understanding, enduring classics of cinema that had always existed… despite the fact most were just a few years old.

I suspect it’s for this reason that my top note on Total Recall is “fantastic effects”. But, still, they are; from the wide shots of a Martian landscape and its complex of buildings, to the mutants, disguises, and blood ‘n’ gore. That it all becomes slightly cartoony — albeit the nastiest, gruesomest cartoon (apart from, y’know, some of That Japanese Stuff) — just adds to the charm. Similarly, a lot of the ‘science’ is utterly implausible or impossible — which, Open widedepending on your point of view, either supports the “it was all a dream” reading or is just a case of artistic licence, hardly uncommon in SF cinema.

Also very much ‘of the era’ is the star, Arnold Schwarzenegger (as if you needed telling). He really isn’t cut out for any role more demanding than the Terminator, though his laboured delivery and awkward presence injects a certain amateurish, humorous charm to any scene he’s in — ergo, much of the film. Conversely, Michael Ironside makes an excellent villain. Though his death is suitably dramatic, it’s a shame he’s not The Big Bad Guy — the film follows the blockbuster rule of dispatching villains in order of importance well enough, but Ronny Cox doesn’t come close to the commanding presence required to create a memorable villain in such little screen time. It leaves the viewer longing for Ironside to be featured during the final climax instead of Cox’s limp boss.

I suppose Total Recall endures in that way successful films do, because they provide a point of shared cultural awareness. I feel its influence has diminished with time — this is entirely subjective, but it doesn’t seem to come up as much as it used to — and presumably will continue to do so, as its not-unjustified absence from Best Of lists means fewer new viewers come to it and so its cultural cachet diminishes. Take this pill to forget... how to actPerhaps it’s ultimately destined for an afterlife as a film representative of its era; the kind of thing that comes up as a footnote or personal favourite in texts & documentaries specifically discussing things like The Sci-fi Cinema of the ’90s. Or perhaps I’m doing it a disservice. We shouldn’t really try to predict these things too much, it’ll only lead to embarrassment when the opposite happens.

So, Total Recall. Good fun. Quite funny. Bit gory. I liked the effects.

4 out of 5

Total Recall is on Syfy (UK) tonight, Monday 10th November 2014, at 9pm.