Minority Report: Spielberg Tackles the Future

Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Courtesy of DreamWorks/Twentieth Century-Fox.

Minority Report might take place some fifty years after the film was shot but the film’s themes are still relevant almost twenty years later.

This film marks the first collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise.  The film has audiences asking some important questions.  What if we knew what was going to happen in the future?  After you ask yourself the question, what if the person knowing this found out he was going to kill someone?  This is the gist of the film, which is based on the Philip K. Dick short story.  Another thing here is that the audience must be able to buy into the science early on in the film. This is key to being able to just sit back and enjoy the ride.  If you’re watching the film for the first time in 2020, the science is very believable.  It’s amazing how much of the science is catching up right in front of us.

There’s something to be said about the eye-dentification.  Social media platforms already know our faces.  Companies target us online because of internet cookies.  One could look at author Philip K. Dick as a prophet in the world of science-fiction.  In case you didn’t know, Dick is also the man behind Blade Runner.  One of the film’s main themes is free will vs. determinism.  The film handles this so beautifully.  If we know our future, could we possibly do something to change it?

The Department of PreCrime, at least in what we see on screen, is mostly focusing on preventing murders.  This is where the three pre-cognitives are the main focus.  Two twin males and one female share a common trait.  They see the future and the visions appear on a giant screen.  Together, they’re able to see the future.  They have no interaction with the outside world.  The department’s agents work to arrest people on the basis of the visions.

PreCrime Captain John Anderton (Tom Cruise) has turned to drugs since his son, Sean, disappeared.  Anderton is also separated from his wife, Lara (Kathryn Morris).  Anderton just happens to have the unfortunate luck of being in the pre-cogs vision when DOJ agent Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) is visiting the agency.  Talk about bad luck!  Anderton now goes on the run and PreCrime creator Dr. Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) tells him that Agatha (Samantha Morton) sometimes has a different vision.  Dr. Hineman refers to this as a “minority report.”

There’s a lot of mystery in the film surrounding the death of Ann Lively (Jessica Harper).  She just happens to be Agatha’s mother.  The further we get into the film, Anderton learns that he’s being framed.  Meanwhile, Witwer starts studying the available footage and starts to believe the same.  Anybody in the right mind would do what he does next.  But what Witwer doesn’t know is that the director and founder of PreCrime, Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow), is covering up the murder.  Goodbye Witwer!

In many aspects, Minority Report falls under the usual sci-fi playground.  But more than this, the action thriller also ventures into film noir territory.  We can also see this in the film’s color palette.  “It’s the grittiest looking entertainment movie I’ve ever done,” Spielberg says in the bonus features.  He doesn’t count Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan.

John Williams’s work is a departure from the usual Spielberg film scores.  Tonality–common in Williams’s work for Spielberg–is missing in the film.  Instead, the music plays more to the film’s suspense.  Because of the film’s genre, Williams’s score also draws on the work from legendary film composer Bernard Herrmann.

It’s not uncommon for Spielberg to tell stories during the past (cough World War II).  This film sees Spielberg jumping fifty years into the future.  One thing that has me asking questions is noting the film’s release comes after the Patriot Act is signed into law.  One can imagine this being on Spielberg’s mind when he was shooting the film.  It is certainly something to think about.

The major monuments are still standing in the nation’s capital.  Spielberg is a fan of set design and construction.  This really shows through in the film.  The precog set itself is a major set piece in the film.  But still, he relies on physical sets rather than CGI.

Spielberg on using physical sets over digital during The Future According to Steven Spielberg:

“I guess a day will come when it’ll be cheaper to do it all digitally. I hope that day never comes because the craft and the art of design–it helps the actors so much to come into a room that is the room that we’re photographing that gives them an environment to bounce off of. It gives the actors a world to act in.”

Spielberg also stops Tom Cruise from doing some dangerous stunts a few times.  Much like Harrison Ford, Cruise is the type to do his own stunts.  Whatever works, I suppose!

If there’s the smallest chance that they get it wrong, an innocent person ends up getting arrested.  Because of this, I would not be able to support such a PreCrime concept as envisioned in the film.  There’s a lot to be said about the current criminal justice system.  We know that there are flaws.  We can see it in the system today.  Minority Report leaves much to debate about the film’s themes and the rightness or wrongness.

DIRECTOR:  Steven Spielberg
SCREENWRITERS:  Scott Frank and Jon Cohen
CAST:  Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, and Max von Sydow with Lois Smith, Peter Stormare, Tim Blake Nelson, Steve Harris, Kathryn Morris

DreamWorks and Twentieth Century-Fox opened Minority Report in theaters on June 21, 2002. Grade: 4.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.