Cyberpunk Review » Minority Report

June 12, 2006

Minority Report

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 2002

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Written by: Philip K. Dick (short story), Scott Frank & Jon Cohen (screenplay)

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

Key Cast Members:

  • Chief John Anderton: Tom Cruise
  • Pre-Crime Director Lamar Burgess: Max von Sydow
  • Agatha: Samantha Morton
  • Danny Witwer: Collin Ferrel
  • Evanna (John’s Wife): Jessica Capshaw
  • Rating: 8 out of 10

    Minority Report screen capture


    Overview: Minority Report, directed by Steven Spielberg, is another one of the large scale production cyberpunk movies that cleared a hefty gross (358 million worldwide, not counting DVD sales). Minority Report works both as a summer blockbuster (it was released in June), but also as a fairly intelligent cyberpunk flick. Based on another terrific story from Phillip K. Dick, Minority Report has a terrific cast headed up by Tom Cruise and Max Von Sydow, awesome special effects, and terrific music and sound FX throughout.


    Minority Report screen capture


    The Story: In Minority Report, Tom Cruise stars as John Anderton, a police chief at the head of an elite pilot police program, now in its sixth year, that prevents crimes BEFORE they are committed. The year is 2054, and the ability now exists within gifted, but altered people called “precogs” to tell when someone is about to commit a crime. The Precogs, comprised of two twins and one woman, Agatha (played wonderfully by Samantha Morton), are kept at all times in a dreamlike state in strange pool of water. The Precogs receive visions of murders that will be taking place. Based on an elaborate system that works off the Precogs, the police are able to extract the visions and are given the names of the murder victim and the murderer on color coded balls. Based on this, all premeditated murders have become a thing of the past – now the only murders that “might” take place are the crimes of passion, or “red balls” in Minority Report terms. When a red ball comes, the John Anderton must quickly work with the dreams to find the location of the murder (which often is only a few minutes or hours into the future) so that his team can rush to prevent it.


    Minority Report screen capture


    The end result of this technology is that people are being imprisoned for the crime PRIOR to committing it. Those who are identified by the Precogs are immediately sentenced to a strange virtual prison, where they are stuck in perpetual dreamstate (no word is given why they aren’t relegated to a normal prison). Through a quirky situation, John Anderton is brought in close proximity to the Precog, Agatha – she grabs him and fervently relays a vision that has occurred in the past. In tracking this down, John Anderton learns that sometimes one of the three Precogs actually deliver a vision that differs from the other two. This vision, termed a “Minority Report” is quickly discarded so as not to be seen as threatening the integrity of the process.


    Minority Report screen capture


    Anderton, plagued by the death of his son by an unknown assailant prior to the Precogs, has traditionally been the program’s biggest proponent. However, after learning of the Minority Report, he becomes concerned with the possibility that he has in fact been putting innocent people away. But unfortunately, his investigation into this matter has created powerful enemies. A new red ball vision is created, only this time Anderton finds out that HE is supposed to commit a murder in 36 hours. Convinced that he has been unfairly targeted, Anderton escapes from his former team and goes on a crusade to clear his name. His plight forces him to replace his eyes (used for retina scans at all security posts), and eventually takes him to the bottom of the Pilot Program’s seedy beginning.


    Minority Report screen capture


    Story Issues : Nevermind the issue that the creepy hacker dude is able to jury-rig a vision scanning and extraction device faster than Scotty can fix a warp drive, Minority Report has a major issue with the technology that’s really never taken seriously – the issue of freewill. If precogs really can see into the future and determine that someone “will” murder their intended victim, this negates the ability of choice at that last instant of the murder. While this is eventually addressed (no spoilers), there is no rationale provided for why freewill was ignored. In the end we are left with believing that over-zealous law enforcement personnel were able to convince the entire country to take this approach. While this is a fine plot point, it would have been far more believable had their been some indication that they actually had to do a massive conving job.


    Minority Report screen capture


    The Eyeball – the Ultimate Security Breach: The other issue with the story that really defies believability is that when John Anderton is caught, he is CONTINUALLY able to get back into the most secret areas of Police HQ by using his former eyeballs, which he keeps with him in a plastic baggie. Even though the police know he’s on the lamb, the apparently don’t feel the need to revoke Mr. Anderton’s security access privileges. This is all the more disbelievable considering EVERYTHING in society is apparently keyed off a retina scan. Sure, OK, perhaps one time they lapse on this, but three times??? Common Steven – you’re too good a story teller to let that one slide.


    Minority Report screen capture


    The Visuals: The visuals are sleek and well integrated, with some nice aqua and blue tones throughout. Interestingly, Spielberg usually goes with an overexposed type of shot to make it look almost as if one is looking at a dream sequence. Continually, we get white saturation dominating the shots. While this approach sounds weird, it ends up working wonderfully in adding to the mood of a cyberpunk film that has a massive focus on visions and dreams. As always, Spielberg gives us a plethora of truly unique visuals and mood shots. The best of the movie comes when Agatha


    Minority Report screen capture


    The FX: Minority Report consistently has absolute top-notch FX that adds interesting elements to the story. From the strange spider surveillance things, to the Boba Fett Police Podships, to the mixed modern cityscapes, the world of Minority Report comes off as a truly odd cyberpunked future. At some level, everyone seems to be living normal lives. Yet every now and then, we get a sense that the surveillance society has taken hold to the point that people have all just accepted it.


    Minority Report screen capture


    The Bottom Line: The overall mood and FX in Minority Report are terrific. The acting is great - Cruise has rarely been better, but also Von Sydow as the Police Director, Collin Ferrel as the scheming FBI agent, and Samantha Morton as the Precog are all terrific. The FX and sound If you buy the technology, chances are you give Minority Report at least a 9 or 10 star rating. Unfortunately, I did have problems buying some of this. Regardless, the story issues don’t take too much away from a very worthy cyberpunk film.


    Page 2: More Screencaps–>>

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    June 13, 2006

    Illusive Mind said:

    One of the conceits that I found difficult to stomach was that in this ‘uber’-tech soceity the method by which precogs identify murders is carving unique wooden balls.

    SFAM said:

    HA!!!! I TOTALLY agree!!! How bizarre is that??? I had the same thought. Like, um, wouldn’t it have been more useful to do like a future-google mashup and have the name automatically associated with their location and life details? Instead, we get this little wooden ball carved…

    Spider said:

    What I don’t get is, how the hell would Lamar Burgess know that John Anderton would try to kill “Crow” in the appartment simply by giving Crow a picture of John’s son? Anderton would have needed to intend to kill him before the Precogs would have seen him murder Crow, but he had no way of knowing about Crow without following the red ball vision.

    SFAM said:

    Hi Spider, that does certainly pose a problem. To me, this comes across as almost a fatalism issue (again, the issue with freewill). The presumption is that initially, this plot would have occurred differently. Notice that the picture above where John Anderton kills Crow is not where he’s standing when he finally gets to that circumstance. It’s slightly changed. So my guess is Burgess had a plot in mind that led Anderton to there, but based on Anderton’s knowledge, the course of events occurred differently, but STILL led him to end up there at the same time. And yes, this is a bit of a stretch to believe this would work out that way.

    Me personally - I would probably try to get away from that time and place. I don’t know why Anderton was compelled, other than perhaps the issue that he was on the Lamb, and was looking for a hidden way out from all this.

    Case said:

    I guess this will always be a testament to how out of tune I am with…well…just about everyone else. Everyone seemed to have huge problems with A.I., a film I found damn close to brilliant, and yet everyone seemed to love this one and praise it as some sort of landmark in sci-fi cinema. Odd, as I found it so thoroughly mediocre. I mean, by the time Anderton was literally chasing his eyeballs as they rolled away from him, I was laughing…and completely removed from any involvement in the story. (Not to mention the street doc who conveniently keeps a rotten sandwich right next to a fresh one in his fridge…ditto milk).

    I had the same problem with this film as I do with just about any with any sort of psychic involved. What good are these precogs if they can’t foresee when someone’s pulling a fast one on them? And just how many films that involve a deceased child have to open with some sort of action/suspense scene followed, almost immediately, by the main character going home and watching a home video of said child? Christ, I rolled my eyes at that in “Timecop”…and this was twelve years ago!

    SFAM said:

    Hi Case, I agree with you to an extent, but you must admit that every aspect of the production values really shine in Minority Report. The acting is terrific, as are the visuals. I do agree there are some story issues though.

    Incidentally, when I listed Minority Report on my initial top 50 RT thread, I was expecting to get flack for not ranking it higher, but in fact I got a number of comments similar to yours. I did gyrate between a 7 or 8 star rating, but felt it was ultimately strong enough for 8 stars - clearly some would rank it 9, and others might give it a 6 rating (I can’t see lower than this though).

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    July 7, 2006

    Desirina said:

    I always thought that he left the rotten sandwich there just to be a dick.
    What I found unlikely was that the precog would have been able to walk or use her muscles at all, having been so out of practice.
    But Minority Report is still one of my favorite sci fi movies of all time. I can’t help it. I just enjoy it too much. And the cars rock.

    SFAM said:

    Absolutely agree on the sandwich, and the milk for that matter. The dude was living there part time, so he clearly was using the place.

    And yeah, she shouldn’t have been able to walk at all. Good point.

    August 7, 2006

    Adam Doub said:

    Already having read the short story this film was based on, I only had one qualm with the film… granted Tom Cruise did a good job with the role John Anderton, I think the role should have been handed to someone who could have portrayed the look of a drug-addicted, tired police chief. I think John Cusack could have played it off way better ;)

    ETM said:

    It’s better than A.I., but that’s not saying much.

    SFAM said:

    I was OK with Cruise’s performance here, but I kind of agree with you in that someone who’s life seemed more “ruined” would have worked better. Cruise certainly didn’t look that way physically, but did seem to get the mental part of it OK I thought.

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    February 10, 2007

    Dyce said:

    Isn’t it a bit odd that the evil plan revolves around setting someone up by placing a con in the future, and hoping that a time paradox leads your intended victim to find the guy he’s supposed to kill? I mean, huh?
    The book had a much better ending

    […] Joy I want, use this brain control with the hands on interface from Jeff Han, and we really get the Minority Report interfaces […]

    June 8, 2007

    GhostKru said:

    i didn’t like this movie because of the inconsistency of the “precogs”
    it’s first said that they are able to catch potential murderers by sensing their emotions and thoughts, and that they need to stay in the tanks to use their abilities. yet later in the film the female precog can predict the weather, etc.

    the only cool part was the future GUI using hand gestures

    June 24, 2007

    Klaw said:

    The problem with the movie was this suffered through a number or writers, so the story was fairly piecemeal. Typical Spielbergian trappings thrown in didn’t help, like the corny jetpack chase scene (family eating dinner at the table), Anderton’s being the “broken” family somehow being reunited by all the drama. Colin Ferrell’s part I thought was a pointless red herring “L.A. Confidential” throwaway role. Some of the other silliness like the rotten sandwich (come on, how can you not love a Peter Stormare role?) and the rolling eyeballs was pretty goofy slapstick but I didn’t mind it. Spielberg really immersed himself in Kubrick’s style for this and A.I., and I think it really showed… the shots of Anderton approaching Dr. Hineman’s garden looked almost directly out of Clockwork Orange. Add in the “watching the clock tick” down to the his predicted murder was pure Hitchcock… even if a fair percentage of the flick is kneedeep in smarm and cheese it was worth it for the good stuff.

    July 10, 2007

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    Where halle berry sex scene he can’t escape. So vital? I was lost it is no suspicion. I’ve been.

    July 20, 2007

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    November 3, 2007

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    November 16, 2007

    dyce said:

    what the f*&k is being listed as comments on this page? is no one monitoring? hello?!

    November 17, 2007

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    We talked a hug. It wild party girls videos s tight rosebud. No sense.

    January 11, 2008

    film dude said:

    minority report was an amazing flick. Cruise did an amazing job. the overall feel and look of the movie was very original, well thought out

    February 13, 2008

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    May 7, 2009

    Wilson said:

    One thing which struck me in this film was how adverts would scan his eyes and then broadcast themselves right into his head, calling him by name. If I’m honest this fills me with more dread than any other cyberpunk speculations about the future. Ads are invasive enough as it is. We get them in our mail, our emails, on message boards (see below), on tv and radio, we get telemarketing calls.. I could go on..

    Malovane said:

    There’d definitely be a market for adblocking these retinal biometrics.

    June 18, 2010

    Major said:

    I see the spam bots have even made it onto here. Good job, mods.

    August 28, 2010

    Tom Cruise said:

    You fucking cunts have absolutely no taste.

    July 4, 2011

    Vlad said:

    Well, the idea I thought was that they wanted something that could not be forged. Something as organic and NON-digital as a wooden sphere was something that was secure.

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