Minority Report Review
By Shawn McKenzie 06/20/2002
The year 2001 was not a good year for either Stephen Spielberg or Tom Cruise. Audiences hated both of their movies, Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and Cruise’s Vanilla Sky, even though critics loved them. I was torn, because I loved both of them. I was even thinking “Oscar” for both of them. Then I heard other people’s reactions. I believe “sucked” and “confusing” were the most commonly used words that I heard. My heart sunk because I was beginning to think I had lost touch with the regular movie-going crowd.
I then realized that it wasn’t me that was the problem. Both of those movies are long and thought provoking, which require a lot of patience. Most people go to a movie at the theater for a fun time where they don’t have to think. They do not want to sit in a theater for two and a half or three hours and try to figure out what is going on in the movie. In A.I. specifically, I think most people were expecting a typical Stephen Spielberg movie and got a Stanley Kubrick film instead. Kubrick never made a movie with box office receipts in mind, and I have loved most of his films. In Vanilla Sky specifically, I think Cruise or director Cameron Crowe underestimated audience appetites for an American version of a Spanish movie called Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes). I had seen the original confusing (to most people) but first-rate version, and even though I liked it better than the Cruise/Crowe version, I did like Vanilla Sky.
I was wondering if the audience reaction to those movies was going to affect Spielberg and Cruise’s latest venture, Minority Report. Would they dumb it down to please the masses? After seeing the movie, I realized that even though they are businessmen who are in the business of pleasing audiences, they still wanted to keep some artistic credibility. I think they were actually able to find a great mix of commercial storytelling and artistic merit.
Minority Report is based on a Philip K. Dick short story about a cop named John Anderton (Cruise) in the future working in a division of the police department that arrests killers before they commit the crimes courtesy of some future viewing technology. Cruise's character has the tables turned on him when he is accused of a future crime and must find out what brought it about and stop it before it can happen.
Though the movie is long (about two hours and twenty minutes), it has a fast enough pace to keep the commercial crowd interested. It has enough twists and turns to keep everyone watching on their toes. Just when you think you have figured out what is going to happen, it goes in a different direction. There are characters that you make a judgment on, and they turn on you. I didn’t see any of what happened coming.
It also managed to be thought provoking. Is it right to put a person in jail for a crime they had yet to commit? I really had to think hard about that. I still don’t know what I would do. The opening scene where Anderton stops a crime-of-passion murder with one second to spare was interesting because the intensity in the man’s face showed that he did intend to kill his wife and her lover no matter what, but if it was possible to stop those murders before they took place, should it be done? I think it should, but I think the bigger question should be whether or not the man should be incarcerated for the rest of his life. That makes for an interesting discussion, one of many that this film brings up.
The performances in Minority Report just add to the intensity. Cruise is wonderful as the cop haunted by his tragic past, a past that led him to seek the job with the Pre-Crime division of the police department. Max von Sydow is mysterious as Director Burgess, head of the Pre-Crime division. Colin Farrell is great as an FBI detective assigned to investigate the division to see how foolproof it is. You don’t know whether to trust him or not, and that is part of the fun of watching his and all of the other performances in this movie.
The one minor (pun unintended) problem I had with the movie was some of the misplaced use of humor in the movie. In one scene Anderton needs to use his eyeballs to get into a room (explaining why they are not in his head would give away too much, so just go with me here.) He has them in a bag, and when he goes to take them out to use them, he accidentally drops them and they go rolling down a ramp. He chases them and catches one before it falls down a grate in the floor. I’m not saying that the movie had to be completely humorless, but it just seemed out of place and a little too goofy for that specific scene. Like always, I may change my mind upon repeated viewings (this is definitely one that I want to get the DVD of), but that is how I felt when I first saw it.
last year’s disappointments for Spielberg and Cruise, will we see a repeat of
audience scorn for Minority Report? I don’t think so, because unlike those
previous movies, this movie is fast-paced and not confusing. Am I going to
think “Oscar” again? I’ve been stung on that many times in the past, so to be safe I should
probably say no. This is only because I am fully aware that, despite last
year’s overwhelming praise for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the
Ring, Oscar doesn’t tend to reward science-fiction or fantasy, no matter how
intelligent or artistic it is. Because of its many twists and turns in the
story, it might get a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, but it might just
be too commercial-looking for anything else. That is a shame, because for a big
budget movie, it didn’t dumb down for the audience and it was still
entertaining. That’s my own personal Oscar criterion!
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