This is just a really entertaining film.
Minority Report (2002)
The Plot: In a future where technology can predict murders before they happen , one pre-crime officer becomes a fugitive when the system predicts that he will kill someone, but he suspects that he’s being framed in order to discredit the system.
Seen it Before?: A couple times before, but I like it more every time I see it.
Writing (9): The script is excellent, with all manner of really clever twists and turns throughout. The final act is like a parade of “what?” “What?” “WHAT!?!?” and it’s fantastic.
My only gripe is that the dialogue feels a bit stilted here and there. The cast is wonderful, but you can tell they have to sort of stumble through patches of awkward dialogue. But this is only in a few scenes. The overall plot moves with breakneck speed, and you can’t help but get sucked into it.
Acting (8): I really like Tom Cruise in this one. There’s a lot of depth to his character, especially with his tragic past. The scene where he’s reliving old videos of his son, the scene where we see what happened when his son was kidnapped, and then the scene where he confronts the man whom he thinks stole his son are all incredibly acted. They could easily be hammy, but Cruise goes for raw emotion and it works really well.
I also really like the depth in Max Von Sydow’s performance. He’s likable, but once we realize what he really did, there’s a simmering malevolence beneath the calm exterior that’s so creepy.
Kudos also to Colin Farrell. At first you just KNOW he’s the bad guy, but when he realizes that they’re all being set up, the shift is so natural it doesn’t feel like a random switch for dramatic purposes. You realize that he’s genuinely searching for truth and it’s not just a witch hunt.
The rest of the cast isn’t as strong, but it’s not a big deal since they’re mostly just obstacles or window dressing in John’s journey.
Visual Style (9): Spielberg is quoted as saying to his longtime cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (who won Oscars for his work on Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan) that he wanted to create the “ugliest dirtiest movie” they had ever made. I think Spielberg and Kaminski came out of A.I. with a more daring experimental approach that I think contributed a lot to this film’s unique look.
For a film that is set in such a slick future, I’m intrigued that chose such a gritty visual style. It recalls the muted colors of Saving Private Ryan, but avoids the crisp sharpness of A.I. Now, there are definitely other movies that are grimier in terms of the set and lighting (I’m thinking of the industrial dampness of Alien), but I think making the camera work itself rougher and more gritty in this film adds a great element.
Not only is John’s work life a shiny facade for a damaged, unkempt interior, but so many of the characters have a conflict between their external and internal selves and I think the crisp shiny sets combined with the shaky, gritty camerawork expresses that well.
Now once John escapes into the grimier parts of the city, we get plenty of physical ickyness that shows that, even though pre-crime has lowered the crime rate, the city has done nothing to combat the rampant poverty and drug use that has reduced the inner city to a moldy, gross, collection of tumbled-down apartments.
My only issue is how the film sometimes turns to gross-out humor for a laugh (ie, a blinded John groping about in the fridge and accidentally grabbing the green spoiled milk and black moldy sandwich instead of the fresh milk and nice sandwich that are right there) that doesn’t really add much to the film except to make you breathe a sigh of relief when he finally is able to get out of that place.
Music (7): The music works in terms of its background atmosphere, but there really aren’t any memorable themes that stand out. This film has many elements of the neo-noir genre, and ambient music is often an important part of such films, and I think Williams could have created a futuristic equivalent to the “moody saxaphone riff” that became a cliche in the 40’s. Instead, he scores the film as if it’s a slick action film (which it kind of is, but we’ll talk about that in the next section).
Genre (8): Spielberg went into this wanting it to evoke the moody atmosphere of film noir classics like The Maltese Falcon, and I think it works, for the most part. It was marketed as a slick action film, but I think the film’s best moments are the more thoughtful scenes. It’s ultimately a mystery film, and that’s what gives the script it’s headlong pace that just pulls you in.
Again, as is often common in Spielberg films, sometimes things dip toward the comedic, and in this one, it doesn’t always work. Certain scenes (like the jetpack fight scene) edge into more slapstick goofiness that one would find in a generic action flick, but not in a moodier cyberpunk film like this one. Now, it’s still entertaining, but I think the film could have evolved from Great Film to Classic Film if it had committed more fully to the cyberpunk/film noir style a la something like Bladerunner.
Overall Thoughts: Great twisty plot, fantastic visual style, and a great lead make this a lot of fun to watch and analyze.
Total Score: 41/50
- Schindler’s List (50)
- Saving Private Ryan (48)
- E.T. (45)
- Jurassic Park (44)
- The Color Purple (44)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (43)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (43)
- Jaws (42)
- Empire of the Sun (42)
- Minority Report (41) (According to RT, this one beat out Amistad by 20 points)
- Amistad (41)
- A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (40)
- Hook (39)
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (38)
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (37)
- The Sugarland Express (35)
- Always (34)
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park (33)
- 1941 (27)
Next week, we’re moving away from the sci-fi world and entering the real world with Catch Me If You Can.