Minority Report

June, 2002, Thriller

Directed by:Steven Spielberg

Starring:Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow, Steve Harris, and Neal McDonough

Minority Report

Steven Spielberg doesn't make movies anymore; he makes events. His latest effort, a si-fi murder mystery with epistemological overtones is lots of fun without ever once being as intellectually challenging as he obviously wants it to be; rather, it's much like a magician's feat of pulling silver dollars from behind your ear or stealing the watch off your arm without notice, interesting but not stimulating. And the special effects! As Jack Nicholson's character once said of Batman in that movie, "Where does he get all those wonderful toys?"

Set in the nation's capital some 50 years hence, MR traces the efforts of a very hi-tech cop, played by Tom Cruise, to uncover the inexplicable circumstances of an obscure murder that occurred at the beginning of a new and wonderfully effective means of crime prevention-catching "perps" before they can commit the deed. With fabulous visualization and swift pacing, Spielberg and Cruise demonstrate how the system works and then begin to examine the implications of incarcarating people for crimes they never actually committed.

As the director unwinds his plot, ancillary characters begin to indirectly flesh out the persona of the Cruise character even as Tom himself gropes for self-understanding in the midst of his search for an answer to why his interest in this long-forgotten homicide suddenly turns into a giant frame-up/manhunt for Cruise himself.

All of this is done with dazzling imagery and almost delirious imagination; electronic spiders that sniff out felons in the most amazing way, eponymous human "pre-certs" who "see" the future while suspended in fluid that looks like runny egg whites, and surgery that gives new meaning to the old phrase "I'll keep an eye out for you". But the plot has holes a large rhino could amble through, and characters are as plastic as anything in the comic-book subsidence lying directly beneath this film.

Even Spielberg's ever-present focus on children and the damage the adult world so often does to them gets hauled out for further exposition, in ways insufficiently oblique to add anything to the director's earlier worldview.

Great directors develop characters, allowing the audience to learn something about the protagonists even as they go about learning it themselves. Spielberg doesn't develop; he presents, which probably works rather well for Cruise at this point in his carrier; as a star of enormous bankable value, it's probably more important for him to achieve and sustain his box office clout than explore the darker sides of the cop he portrays. And at almost 2 1/2 hours, the movie begins to exhaust even as it tries to elucidate; more interesting endings occur at least twice before the final credits roll. A mystery should be part atmosphere, part plot, a bit of action and mostly about the

 motivations of its characters. Here, the director gives us plenty of the first and third ingredients but not nearly enough of the second and fourth, so while it's great fun to look at, (and certainly deserves to be seen on that basis) this isn’t an addition to the director's oeuvre which will stand the test of time. But see it for the gadgets, the technology-- and most of all for Agatha, a "pre-cert' whose creepy vulnerability just hints at what a more gifted developer of character could have done with all the time and money that went into this production.

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