STARRING: Tom Cruise, Samantha Morton, Max von Sydow, Colin Farrell, Tim Blake Nelson

2002, 145 Minutes, Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Description: Set in 2054, Steven Spielberg's Minority Report is freely adapted from a story by Philip K. Dick, with its central premise of "Precrime" law enforcement, totally reliant on three isolated human "precogs" capable (due to drug-related mutation) of envisioning murders before they're committed. As Precrime's confident captain, Tom Cruise preempts these killings like a true action hero, only to run for his life when he is himself implicated in one of the precogs' visions.

Let's suppose that they can somehow predict the future - and thus prevent murders before they happen. That would be cool, right? Except then they'd be arresting people for something they hadn't done, yet. It wouldn't seem fair locking people up for something they didn't do, would it?

However, what if it works? What if the murder rate is brought down significantly - almost to levels where it is practically non-existent? Imagine a world without violent death, as the man sang. One doesn't even have to live in South Africa, one of the most violent countries in the world, for the concept to be appealing. What if the system used to catch these future criminals isn't perfect? Let's say the occasional innocent person is caught? (That is, theoretically innocent. Remember that in practice they are all innocent since they haven't actually committed any crimes.) What then?

Does one abolish such a system then? All the criminal justice systems we have throughout the world make mistakes. Innocent people do get arrested and convicted. However, does that mean we abolish the system we have or merely reform it? How about the death penalty? Does the prospect of killing innocent people make one abolish the death penalty? I know it sure as hell didn't stop the State of Texas . . .

"Has everything that Attack of the Clones lacked: thrilling action, realistic special effects and a clever screenplay!"

Steven Spielberg's latest science fiction action movie Minority Report never really addresses any of these issues in-depth. Let's say such a system isn't 100% perfect, but it results in a murder-free society. Having lost an old school friend and my grandmother in particularly brutal circumstances I personally would think twice before answering. Living in a society such as South Africa, which at times seem to resemble the future depicted in A Clockwork Orange where fear and paranoia are commonplace, the question becomes more loaded. Albert Camus once said that he would choose his mother above justice. He had a point.

As you might have gathered Minority Report isn't your average sci-fi action movie. It is driven by a high concept, one originally featured in a short story by Philip K. Dick. (Quick, what are the other sci-fi movies based on Dick material? Blade Runner, Total Recall, Screamers, Impostor.) A bit like Total Recall, Minority Report eschews some of the plot's more cerebral aspects in favor of action when one of the cops responsible for capturing these future criminals is fingered as a future murderer and goes on the run to prove his future innocence. And what action!

Despite boasting one of the more clever screenplays of the year (one never truly knows in which direction the plot is heading), Minority Report features some excellent and imaginative action sequences. Two of these sequences involve jetpacks and cars that drive by themselves - two staples of what I believed, growing up back in the 1970s, that the future would be like one day. To appreciate just how good Minority Report is one need only have seen the dismal Impostor earlier this year.

Also a Philip K. Dick short story padded into full-length action movie, Impostor was content to rehash action movie clichés. Minority Report instead plays around more with its concept: it is much more plot-driven. Even as the movie loses some momentum towards its end, one still has no idea of where exactly it is headed.

The film is a good indication of how some true creativity can create a truly immersive science fiction universe. The movie boasts some excellent production designs, avoiding the Blade Runner dystopia by mixing 19th century architecture with 21st. Flying vehicles, streamlined cars and some creepy spider-like robots add to the mix. Minority Report never bores throughout its lengthy running time.

Also, at times I caught myself wondering aloud: "This is a Spielberg movie?!" Some truly black-humored scenes make up for the characteristically sentimental mush that practically destroyed Spielberg's AI - Artificial Intelligence project last year.

Ultimately Minority Report has everything that the latest Star Wars installment (Attack of the Clones) lacked: competent acting, thrilling action sequences, realistic special effects and a clever screenplay. I think George Lucas should let his old pal direct the next Star Wars movie because I too have seen the future and Minority Report is going to be the best science fiction movie of 2002 . . .



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