Some people insist that the future is written
And forever unknown.
For every mistake, we are twice shy once bitten,
Whether we are too late.
How grand it would be if the future were clearer,
What we can’t guarantee.
If destiny was not a wall but a mirror,
We perhaps could prevent.
Yet what if the future were actually written
Or to change what is planned.
How could you know if the course that you fit in
Or to change if you will?
MPAA rating: PG-13
Since most of her movie choices thus far have been romantic comedies, my VC wanted to prove her interests do extend beyond, to science fiction, for example. Thus, she recommended Minority Report, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story about a world where crime can be stopped through precognition. You can’t go wrong with Spielberg and sci-fi, and as with his later pairing with Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds, Minority Report is a darkly polished cautionary tale with no shortage of futuristic effects.
Cruise plays John Anderton, a PreCrime cop whose division prevents murders through the oracular visions of three medicated “precogs” who float in a vat of milky fluid. When you say it like that, it sounds rather, um, strange, but the technological methods and theoretical concepts employed are explained understandably enough and brought to life with all manner of futuristic gadgets, from jetpacks to hand-operated holographic screens that look suspiciously like those in Tony Stark’s garage. After dealing with the probing questions of DOJ agent Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell), Anderton finds himself on the wrong side of this supposedly flawless system when he is singled out as a would-be murderer, and as he says, “Everybody runs.”
Cruise himself delivers a solid performance as Anderton, one of his first sci-fi roles. Despite being a drug addict, Anderton is consistently sympathetic due to his grief over his son’s abduction, after which he threw himself into his Precrime work. He insists on the system’s infallibility, yet when he’s on the receiving end of the accusation of murder, he proves to have the strength and intelligence to evade capture and dig deeper into how the system works. It’s a credit to the story that, even after an apparent breakthrough moment, the plot still has more twists up its sleeve. The secrets Anderton uncovers also open up philosophical quandaries he had chosen to ignore, from the humanity of the seemingly braindead precogs to whether the future is really set in stone, particularly when that future can be foreseen.
One thing seems certain: 2054 will be a problematic year. I find it curious that at least three different dystopian sci-fi films take place in that year, Surrogates, Harrison Bergeron, and this one. I suppose it’s a year that seems close enough to still be recognizable to our current lifestyle but distant enough to hold guessable technological advances. Those advances are some of Minority Report’s greatest strengths, of which we see more as Anderton’s journey continues. Autopilot cars and vertical highways? That’s cool. Spider drones that scout out entire buildings? That’s even cooler. The practical advantages of seeing the future? That too. Eventually, these cool moments add up to an all-around cool movie with some food for thought at its heart.
In addition to the moral issue of punishing people for crimes not yet committed, the tech side of things also offers questions to consider. As convenient as it would be for cars to drive themselves or public ads to be instantly customized to you based on an eye scan, such advances are only harmless for as long as you remain in the good graces of the powers that be. Those conveniences become liabilities and dangers once Anderton goes on the run. One could say that good, law-abiding people have nothing to worry about, but what is good or law-abiding can change depending on who is in power.
Minority Report is a thought-provoking mystery and one more credit to Spielberg’s sci-fi filmography. The dark cinematography makes every source of light glow, often placing an aura or halo around people, suggesting perhaps, like many dystopian films, that this shining future is only bright on its edges with shadier secrets below. The film’s one negative, aside from an unanswered question or two, was an uncomfortable scene of an eye transplant. My VC is especially squeamish about such scenes and didn’t even want me to look.
Nonetheless, Minority Report’s style and futuristic creativity made for an entertaining what-if scenario with ethical debates that will only grow as 2054 gets closer.
Best line: (Dr. Hineman, co-founder of Precrime) “Sometimes, in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.”
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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