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Minority Report (****)
directed by Steven Spielberg
written by by Scott Frank and Jon Cohen, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick

Minority Report

Principal Cast
Tom Cruise -- Detective John Anderton
Max von Sydow -- Director Lamar Burgess
Steve Harris -- Jad
Colin Farrell -- Detective Ed Witwer
Neal McDonough -- Officer Fletcher
Patrick Kilpatrick -- Knott
Jessica Capshaw -- Evanna
Richard Coca -- Pre-Crime Cop
Kirk B.R. Woller -- Pre-Crime Cop (Ross)
Klea Scott -- Pre-Crime Cop
Frank Grillo -- Pre-Crime Cop
Anna Maria Horsford -- Casey
Sarah Simmons -- Lamar Burgess' Secretary
Eugene Osment -- Jad's Technician
James Henderson -- Office Worker #1
Vene L. Arcoraci -- Office Worker
Ratings
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Minority Report is intelligent, witty science fiction. There is a fifteen-minute action sequence that is original, spectacular, and thrilling. There is a murder mystery -- how do you commit the perfect murder in a society where precogs foresee murder before it happens -- with a clever solution. There are a lot of deft predictions about the near future that are both convincing and original. And the ending, while not completely convincing, is not as much of a downer as the ending to last year's equally ambitious A.I.

The whole film, except for the final scene, has a blue and white tone, a complete departure from the comic-book colors of Star Wars. And there is something strange about the scenes with the character played by Max von Sydow -- it looks like his head is filmed separately from the heads of the other characters. Clearly Steven Spielberg is using a lot of technical tricks to ensure that the look of this film does not make the audience think sci-fi. While George Lucas wants to recapture the joy of innocence, Steven Spielberg wants to stretch his artistic ability and find out what film can really do.

The future presented in Minority Report is neither dystopian nor a utopian, but rather an imaginative extrapolation of present trends. The omnipresent advertising, the fascination with cars, the advances in computers and cameras, are all reasonable extensions of our present obsessions, and are much more inventive than most film science fiction.

Neither of the screenwriters is a science fiction fan, but somebody (perhaps Spielberg) came up with a lot of good science fiction ideas. The murder mystery and its solution, the future society and its devices -- all are a complete departure from the Philip K. Dick short story. The film takes only the basic idea of pre-crime and a few of the names. The 1955 short story is set in a future where man has traveled to the stars, and yet computers still use punch cards and motel rooms still have radios for entertainment. The short story addresses the paradox of precognition more directly than the film, but in all other respects the ideas in the film are far superior to the ideas in the story on which it is loosely based.

The movie made me laugh out loud, and bounce up and down with excitement, and there is one scene that might have made me cry, except that an idiot couple had brought their three-year-old to the screening I saw. Whenever the characters on the screen were talking -- the child kept whining, "When is this movie going to be over? When is it going to be over." I doubt that you need to be told that this is not a movie for little kids.

Off-topic for a moment, a news article in Time magazine says that the hearing impaired are bringing a lawsuit to require that films in theaters have the dialogue printed on the screen. Now, if films are nothing but mindless entertainment, why not have written words on every frame? On the other hand, if films are art, would you paint a caption across the bottom of the Mona Lisa? My heart goes out to the hearing impaired, but which is the greater hardship? Subjecting all of us who are lucky enough to hear to annoying captions? Or forcing the hearing impaired to wait six months for the DVD?

If there is one problem with Minority Report, it is the care it takes to catch the audience up on exactly what is going on in every scene. All of the visual information is repeated in the dialogue, so that nobody will be confused even if they aren't really paying attention (because, say, their kid is bored and won't shut up). Granted that this is a long film with an intelligent and complicated plot -- I don't think it is going to have that much appeal to a mass audience anyway and I would have enjoyed it more if the beginning and end had been less talky. On the subject of mass appeal -- certainly a title such as Future Cops would have had a much bigger draw than more appropriate but low-key Minority Report. If you're going to be a class act, might as well go all the way, and let the people who can't pick up visual cues fall by the wayside.

Copyright © 2002 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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