Friday, June 21, 2002

Minority Report (IMDB) (Netflix)
The year is 2054, and pre-cognitive humans can foresee murders up to four days in advance, allowing the cops to arrest you before you've done anything--Attorney General John Ashcroft's recurring wet dream scenario. Tom Cruise runs the PreCrime unit, which is infallible, or so everyone thinks, but Cruise somehow is "tagged" for a murder he has no intention of committing, and is soon on the run from his own men, who have jet packs, robot spider scouts and "sick sticks" that make you puke your guts out if they touch you. It's the old find-out-who's-framing-you-before-the-cops-catch-up scam, but done with extra verve and intellectual depth.

Minority Report is based on short story by Philip K. Dick, one of the most imaginative writers of the past century, and probably one of the craziest. He wrote the books that inspired Blade Runner ("Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and Total Recall ("We Can Remember It for You Wholesale"), plus is said to have planted the seed for The Truman Show. Dick's a good source for Steven Spielberg, who has been increasingly attracted to darker, more complex material as his kids grow up.

The film has been processed to bleach skin tones and blow out the highlights, hinting at what botched LASIK eye surgery feels like, but looks terrific. I was less enthused about the camera shaker used during the action scenes--the theater's projector seemed about have a meltdown. The reach of the CGI effects often exceeds its grasp, there are one or two plot points that don't hold water, and the endgame is straight out of the thriller screenplay pattern book, but this film has something for just about everyone: action, plot twists, creepy characters and wit (the large number of product placement bits look like my old consulting firm's scenarios about future of consumer shopping, serve nicely as comic relief, and probably funded a fair chunk of the budget). Underlying the glitz is a tender and affecting commentary on the nature of loss, and Samantha Morton is especially touching as one of the pre-cogs.

The best big movie of the year so far.