What a great way to step back into the film criticism biz than with a great flick like Minority Report. Marketed like a latter day Blade Runner (which, in a sense it is) and banking its opening weekend numbers on the one-two punch value of Tom “Legend” Cruise and Stephen “1941” Spielberg, you might think perhaps you shouldn’t get your expectations up, because, really, how could can it be? And hasn’t Fox done enough lately to disappoint us?
Oh my Constant Readers, how pleased I am to say that this movie meets expectations very nicely. My immediate reaction was “Looks like A.I., feels like a Kubrick,” which is not meant to alienate detractors of the former. Visually, Janusz Kaminski and Spielberg have taken a lot of lessons learned from creating the visuals of A.I., and improved upon them. There is the element of the impossible cities of Fifth Element, the impersonal mechanization of Total Recall, and the dreamy technological fantasy of A.I. I even forgive Tom for making Vanilla Sky.
Based on the short story by Philip K. Dick, a famous meth-fueled author, the story deals with themes on what is reality and a sort of behavior model of the certainty principle. Even if compaing the action to this film to the whole notion of predicting movement is a quantum leap (ha ha) from the actual scientific principle, it neatly summarizes with just its dictionary definition the two main issues in this film. And, much to the wonderful screenwriters’ credit, it does it in an incredibly accessible way.
Many drug users struggle with the question of what is reality and how can I be sure what seems obvious is going to happen will happen with 100% certainty, but few struggle with such aplomb as Dick. To be fair, his stories play better when filtered through the typewriters of the sane; in this case, the laudable Scott Frank and Jon Cohen. Then of course, there’s the Spielberg Principle.
In many ways, this is not a typical Spielberg film; no music swelling over reaction shots, dangling the audience and prepping them for the real show, but the film still benefits from his extraordinary gift for storytelling and retaining the human component in an enormous story. However, it also benefits from his hours poring through Stanley Kubrick’s personal effects because the darkness is not alleviated by humor; the human errors are not forgiven. He has definitely gotten himself a bigger boat.
The design is wonderful. Set in 2054, it’s close enough to our reality (as close as 1950 is in the other direction) but far enough afield to make it still wonderful and high tech and frightening. One lesson Steve has learned that other directors (cough Lucas) have not is the best scenes are still the analog ones. A very expensive scene in a car factory, a tight, personal scene with only two men in it, a scene in a mall – it’s better because it is real. In these ways it is a Spielberg film, true, but it’s very mature and very very exciting.
I could go on and on about the superb supporting cast, but I’ll just name my favorites: Tim Blake Nelson, Lois Smith, and Peter Stormare. I admit, I had trouble with Colin Farrell – he’s the federal guy coming in and causing trouble, and he was alternately too milquetoast and too smarmy for me to get a bead on him; by the end I dug the casting completely.
It’s cool, but it’s also good, in the way Oscar winning movies are good. Go see it.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 6/21/02
Time in minutes 145
Director Steven Spielberg