Spoilers are not the running type.
I didn’t watch this feature when it came out. I love me some Spielberg, but there’s a time in which I avoided any Cruise vehicles. Nowadays, as long as the story shines through, I’m fine. Cruise is not a bad actor, but he tends to play only one type of protagonist. Fortunately there’s a lot more in the movie to see. That being said, I’ve known ever since I have watch the original trailer, that the film will have some choices and lost opportunities in the storyline that I would have an issue with. It’s not anything close to a loss, there’s a lot of good things to enjoy here. Just don’t expect Cruise to share.
Minority Report (2002) was directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay written by Scott Frank and Jon Cohen. It’s loosely based on a short story from 1965, The Minority Report, by Philip K. Dick. In the film version it’s 2054. John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is the Chief of PreCrime, a new police department that relies on three humans gifted with clairvoyance they called “Precogs”. They can see murders before they happen. The entire process is a prototype program in Washington DC, which is getting examined to see if it goes national. An agent from the US Department of Justice, Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) is evaluating the operation looking for flaws.
John himself is a victim of crime. His son was abducted and never seen again. He divorced his wife Lara (Kathryn Morris) and has a drug dependency. After Witver demands to see the Precogs up close, John ends up getting too close to one of them named Agatha (Samantha Morton) who suddenly grabs him and asks him if he can see. When John stares at the screen, he sees the vision of a woman getting drowned. He manages to track down the image and identifies a missing woman named Ann Lively (Jessica Harper). He takes this information to his superior, Director Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow).
The next premonition spells trouble for John as he sees his own image as the killer, and his name come up. This is where the movie’s premise finally comes full circle. Here is when John must run (it’s Cruise, running is what he does) and evade capture while trying to find out why he’s being framed. This is the fun part of the film as the action kicks up. Seeing John facing his colleagues and knowing exactly how to use their equipment against them has a logical explanation – he trained most of them, after all. It’s also fun to see him correcting his own officers while making sure they’re ok as he makes his escape.
The technology imagined by the film is one of its original highlights. A lot of it nowadays does exists, with some caveats. To start, John’s massive screen which can be controlled by hand motions is easily feasible nowadays. However, wearable technology has never endured. On the other hand, it is a bit silly to see Jad (Steve Harris) passing information from his screen to a piece of plastic to then attach such plastic to John’s screen. Networking was already a thing, there wasn’t a need for a transfer medium for two computers in the same room.
But on the other hand, I do understand the reason for transparent screens. This happens in every movie about the future but it has a more cinematic reason. Regular monitors mean we can’t see the actor’s face up front, it always must be from the side or at an angle. If the screen is transparent, we can highlight the actor’s reaction to what he’s seeing up front without it being obscured by monitor guts. Practically, of course, it makes no sense. Imagine moving things on a screen that is transparent inside an office with walls made out of glass. You can technically have people walking into your field of vision and distracting you from your work. That being said, I think the cinematic reason outweighs the practical one in this aspect.
Storywise, I don’t really care that the movie changed the story. It’s an adaptation, it is its own product. However, the decisions are particularly focused in always giving John the action. Yes, I understand that this is Cruise and probably the reason is staring me right in the face (and through a transparent monitor) but it does lose some opportunities in the final screenplay.
The story of Agatha (Samantha Morton), the cruelty of a system that enslaves her mind in perpetual suffering so society can benefit is rather inhumane. This is pointed out by Dr. Iris Hineman (Lois Smith), inventor of the process, when she gets a visit from John. She acknowledges that Agatha and her Precog colleagues were experimented on without consent nor care for their well being by her team and still are now by PreCrime as well as a complicit society. When John breaks out Agatha it is not to save her but to try to clear his own name. Agatha should have more agency about her own life and yet she’s a side character in a story that determines her future. Agatha never gets asked to agree with anything.
The story of agent Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) is more than just an antagonist for John. Witwer discovers the conspiracy and the framing device behind the killing of the woman in Agatha’s vision, Anne Lively (Jessica Harper) using detective work. For him to just end up killed without much ceremony was a waste of potential. Actually, I found him more interesting as a character than John Anderton. Now, perhaps I am biased against Cruise, but I think they could’ve made an interesting team if they had worked together. Witwer is the perceived antagonist for the beginning of the film until he discovers the truth and gets taken out. Much more interesting would’ve been for him to switch sides at that point, but I guess the choice was made to leave it all for John in the end.
Perhaps the thing that bothers me most is that we’re only supposed to root for Cruise here. Even when Lara discovers the truth and acts to help John, we only get to see one scene of her taking action. This is supposed to be Cruise’s show of course, which means he gets to deliver the final reveal and face the real enemy in the end. With such a talented cast, the choice of making everyone but Cruise a supporting actor feels like wasted potential.
Recommended for most audiences with reservations. Yes, it’s a fun movie and perhaps I nitpick at too many things. I just prefer my sci-fi thrillers with an ensemble cast in which we can pick our own favorites and everyone can share the screen time. The technology might not be as awe-inducing as it once was but it’s still a fun action ride where it gets away with a dramatic license for some, if not all, of its choices. You will probably enjoy it more if you’re a Tom Cruise fan. On the other hand, I would’ve preferred if some aspects of the storyline didn’t squander other character’s agendas for the sake of letting one sole and only protagonist, fix everything in the end. Even support roles should shine once in a while.
That will do for now.