Minority Report Movie Review – Convenient Determinism
The most important theme issued on movies about manipulating time is the eternal struggle for the future. Determinism Vs. Free will. Is the future a straight line or an infinite ocean of possibilities? Around this already compelling framework, Minority Report adds an extra motif: The moral and ethical compass of a law enforcer capable of predicting and avoiding crime.
In the near future, Washington DC police are succeeding with their groundbreaking PreCrime initiative, which, thanks to future visions generated by three mutated humans known as PreCogs, allows crimes to be prevented.
Offenders caught before committing the crime are prosecuted and locked up. According to PreCrime, the argument that you cannot lock up someone who hasn’t done anything yet is invalid because the crime was destined to happen. And yet, the very fact of preventing that crime disproves that affirmation. It’s a paradox that PreCrime handles with grace, good result numbers and an astute policy.
“Only those who know their future can change it” is PreCrime’s argument about the paradox. However, PreCrime’s hypocrisy is obvious: Instead of giving citizens the opportunity to change their future, they immediately enforce the law, remove the so-called enforcer from society and in the process, of course, they assure a political victory. Determinism and free will conveniently used.
Spielberg is fully aware of this born-hypocritical paradox. It’s the reason why he (along with writers Scott Frank and Jon Cohen) plays masterfully with the roles of the law enforcer, the victim, and the offender. John Anderton (Tom Cruise), Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow) and Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) fulfill these roles at different points in the film.
However, the biggest and most unknown victims of this new security paradigm are those who make it possible. No one seems to care about the human rights of the three Precogs (led by Agatha, played by Samantha Morton), who are kept semiconscious in a pool of fluid similar to amniotic fluid and are wired to the Precrime computer system, predicting future crimes 24/7. With PreCrime on the verge of operating at a national level, is this quest for justice what moves Minority Report’s plot forward.
Minority Report has endured the test of time mostly thanks to its high-quality production department and art design. Spielberg hired a team of fifteen futuristic experts to design the year 2054. And so far, everything seems to go on schedule.
The cinematography is another well-planned aspect. Here, Janusz Kamiński (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan) reinforces the idea of the precog visions. We as spectators are watching a story that develops in the future, where everything is overlit, the colors are bleached and the edges are blurry. The only sequence with “normal” colors is the flashback pool scene when Anderton’s son is kidnapped.
Minority Report is far from perfect. Spielberg is a master at getting the viewer to ignore plot holes, but with such a massive and loaded plot, narrative impunity is not total.
What's Your Rating For Minority Report?
In addition to some details such as the inconsistency of the kind of futuristic visions that precogs may have (supposedly they can only see murders, but Agatha can predict smaller details like the perfect place to hide from the police) or how PreCrime can work nationally with the same three enhanced humans, it’s never clear, for example, how Burgess triggered the vision that incriminates Anderton. Also, the forced happy ending is tonally very different from the rest of the film.
But it’s undeniable that Minority Report, as well as being a great piece of entertainment, stays in the mind of the viewer long after their credits rolled. The debate about a criminal system that punishes intention over action is certainly exciting.
Title: Minority Report
Release Year: 2002
Director(s): Steven Spielberg
Writer(s): Philip K. Dick, Scott Frank
Actors: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Neal McDonough, Samantha Morton, a.o.