‘Minority Report’ (2002)

With the recent Eliot Spitzer bust and talk of the NSA’s ‘Total Information Awareness’ program back in the wind, I was compelled to take another look at Steven Spielberg’s ‘ Minority Report ‘.

I’d seen the movie and written another review of the movie back in 2002 and wasn’t so impressed with it — I felt that Spielberg had taken the Philip K. Dick material and slicked it up just a bit too much. When Ridley Scott adapted ‘ Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep ‘ ( cf. Blade Runner’ (1982)) , he made an exerted attempt to ground his story in a world we’d understand, a polyglot, super-ethnic place that had felt the pre-millenial bleed-in from Hong Kong and other portions of east Asia. Even if Minority Report is set in D.C., it feels as though Spielberg’s future is a bit too squeaky-clean, a Googie architecture for the early 21st century.

That’s not to say that Spielberg and his gang of futurist consultants didn’t present us with a compelling vision of the future, with his mag-lev superhighways and reconfigured cityscape, the world of Minority Report looks more line the year 2554 A.D. rather than the intended 2054. We’re still nowhere near the place where the police are able to use jet-packs as personal accessories.

There are interesting details in MR that I wish I’d paid greater attention to the first time, specifically the Precogs’ relationship to the illegal drugs – neuroin – that Tom Cruise’s John Anderton procures on the ‘back-streets’ of a very shiny, futurist Washington, D.C. Apparently the Precogs are all some 21st c. version of crack-babies that have been rehabilitated enough to make their precognative birth-defect useful to the larger society.

Since production on Minority Report started on March 22, 2001 , there’s no way that Spielberg and company could have anticipated 9-11, much less incorporated its effects into Scott Frank’s script .

But the National Security Agency’s Total Information Awareness program seems to be very much the stuff that Spielberg’s Precrime Division of the Justice Department was after — however, rather than use precognitives to divine their subjects, the Bush II Justice Department uses credit information and unlawful wiretaps.

The operative motivation in Information is guilt-by-association — Total Information Awareness — renamed the ‘Terrorism Information Awareness Program’ after Total tested poorly — assembles financial information, telephony and the movement of individuals as a digital surveillance package. In short, there are already computers out there tracking your ‘movement’ when you purchase your lunch with plastic, when and whom you telephone, and who calls you and the movement of your EZ Pass™, when you need to pay tolls, not to mention the alarms that go off if you attempt to transfer more than $10.000 to another entity.

As a former D.A. , Sptizer should have known all about anti-money laundering restrictions and the ramifications of asking Ashley Dupré to transport controlled substances across State lines for him. The fact of the matter is that the NSA, the FBI and Homeland Security already use a collection of invasive tools that make Clinton’s partisan problems with FISA seem quaint by comparison.

So, the Bush Administration has invented their own version of a Precrime Division and promoted the NSA officers formerly in charge of it to senior positions at the Pantagon and the CIA. Bravo to those unreasonable searches that the Constitution was supposed to protect us from. Philip K. Dick, a drug-addict and paranoid schizophenic somehow predicted the future. Just sayin’.

But, to return to the matter of the film, it must be said that Tom Cruise’s star-power damages this film somewhat, since the story literally grinds to a stand-still whenever he isn’t on screen.

Besides all of the lavish production values, what’s also to be admired in Minority Report is the always sturdy Neal McDonough and Lothario-in-real-life , Colin Farrell. If any of their gravity could have been injected into the plot-important scenes between Max van Sydow and Kathryn Morris, specifically the Agatha and Anne Lively subplot it would have helped the flagging 3rd act. More energy, enthusiasm or even musical emphasis might have some breathed life into final 30 minutes, which goes flaccid after Farrell’s Witwer is :: SPOILER :: .

Even though it’s now 6 years old, Minority Report is well worth watching again.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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