Reviewed by: Stephen Lucas
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For a film to be considered a masterpiece in my book it has to exceed my expectations, prove to be mentally challenging, and strikingly original, and it has to do all that with great style, direction, and accuracy. It's a tough criteria for a film to pass, and very few are worthy of the title. Last year, there were two I thought were deserving of that coveted name: Steven Spielberg's 'AI Artificial Intelligence' and the mind-bending thriller 'Memento'. 'AI' was given mixed feedback from critics and audiences alike, taking Spielberg's name down a notch. I may have loved his film, but many did not. Despite this, he made 'Minority Report,' a thriller/mystery starring Tom Cruise. It is a film that is as outstanding as 'Artificial Intelligence' was. Therefore, I'm proud to say that 'Minority Report' is the first film this year that I would consider to be a masterpiece.
Set in 2054, 'Report' centers around a system of law enforcement that prevents murder from occurring in the Washington D.C. area. Appropriately, this futuristic system is dubbed 'Pre-Crime'. How does it work? There are three 'pre-cogs' who act as psychics predicting when a murder will take place, who the murderer is, and who the victim will be. All three inherited this mysterious ability from their parents who were drug-addicts. Many have not survived, but those who did, fuel Pre-Crime. Agent John Anderton (played Cruise, who's in his first Spielberg film) believes in the system with all his heart, claiming that it's perfect and without flaw. He's known to his peers as a great agent, one who they look up to and respect for his dedication to the job. Expertly, he despisers where murders take place, and get there just in Despite it all, his opinion is drastically put into question when the pre-cogs see him murdering a man who he's never heard of before. To avoid the inevitable arrest by his own colleagues, John flees and is forced to live as a fugitive.
Steven Spielberg, admittedly, is one of my favorite directors of all time, maybe more so now then ever. His last two films are his best, alongside his other masterpiece 'Shindler's List'. He was once the king of action ('Raiders of the Lost Arc'), once the king of children's cinema ('E.T'), drama ('Shindlers List'), war film ('Saving Private Ryan') and currently the king of intrigue. This may sound like a strange title, but really that's the best thing to call what he's done with both 'AI' and 'Report'-- both set in the future, a much darker and sinister future than we may imagine it to be. 'AI' may have seemed like a sweet and touching film, but underneath the innocent story, it was a dark drama with heavy undertones of corruption and evil. The same goes for 'Report' which entails both of those themes, and to them it adds much more. Spielberg captured what the future could very well become and is a very realistic and scary idea of what's yet to occur.
'Minority Report' is a hard film to categorize, because it transcends several genres through out the film. It's a noir at heart, a thriller in appearance, and mystery is woven within each scene, the lines spoken, and action executed. Although John may seem like a happy, focused person to many, inside he's depressed and unsatisfied with the person who he has become. One day, years back, he took his son Sean to the city pool, and they competed to see who has the faster swimming time. When it was John's turn, he dives in, but when he comes back up, Sean's gone out of sight, without a trace. After he divorces his wife (every time she looked at John she "saw her son"), he spends his evenings alone, watching videos of he and his son together- an image he hopes never to forget. Spielberg could have just gone for a spectacular action film, but instead he takes that another step forward and gives his characters depth and emotion.
For him to achieve such a thing, the right actor is needed to fit the part of John. That wasn't any problem, though. Tom Cruise plays Agent John Anderton with perfection, capturing the seriousness, heartbreak, paranoia, and boldness of his character. He's at the top of his game, as he proves himself to be irreplaceable. Colin Ferrell (Tigerland) plays Detective Ed Witwer, the overseer of the Pre-Crime program, as it becomes a national issue due to desire to expand outside of just one city. From their first exchange, Anderton and Witwer are enemies, exchanging mean looks and cold dialogue. Ferrell becomes the bad guy you just love to hate throughout the film. After the pre-cogs accuse him of murdering a man, Anderton instantly suspects that Witwer has set him up to get rid of him from Pre-Crime.
In the quest for innocence, he uncovers a secret about the pre-cogs that only few know about. In the past they have always seemed to be right about every murder, as they all see the same thing that will happen-- but that isn't always true. When one of them (usually Agatha (played by Samantha Morton who does an outstanding job), the only female of the three, who's the most powerful) sees something that differs the other two sightings, a minority report is filed, but never announced. They don't want to make any note of the minority reports because then the system would look as though it is imperfect- which is counter to what the public believes. John suspects that the vision of him murdering the man had a secret minority report attached to it, which leads him to do what he needs to do to clear his name. I'm not going to give away any more of the movie because then it would ruin the film for you and that is something I do not want to do.
I sat through the two and a half hours of the film absolutely mesmerized, wrapped up in the story and trying, unsuccessfully, to figure out the great mystery within the film. Spielberg, with the help of his cast, has created an extravagant film with no boundaries nor limits. It's a stirring and intriguing ode to the old-fashioned whodunits and mysteries of yesterday set to a daring and fascinating future. He's created the most thought provoking film since 'AI', his last film. Coincidence? I think not.
If any devoted movie-goer passes up the opportunity to see this film, they're cheating themselves out of a great film experience. For those who loved Spielberg's last will like this one just as much, and for those who did not like it will think this film is an improvement. 'Report' works on so many different levels that it's nearly impossible to think that someone couldn't find anything in it to say they enjoyed. It's visually stunning, logically engaging and overwhelmingly entertaining. 'Minority Report' stands as a reminder of why we go to the movies in the first place - to be entertained throughout. It also serves as a reminder of why Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time.
Review by Stephen Lucas
January 16, 2003
copyright (c) 2003 Stephen Lucas, used with permission
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