Minority Report is essentially a pulpy, 85-minute eXistenZ story stretched out to the 2-hour-plus length of Solaris, Tarkovsky’s philosophical-sci-fi classic which Spielberg cheekily quotes in his show-off final shot. Though the story combines many elements from both the dire Vanilla Sky and the so-so AI, Report thankfully is much looser, more energetic and coherent than both — not a difficult task, of course.

Massively expanding (but drastically dumbing-down) Philip K Dick’s 38-page 1955 story, Scott (Out of Sight) Frank’s script delivers enough whammo action set-pieces every 15 minutes or so to distract us from the various plot holes and deficiencies of characterisation, while the outstanding production design and cinematography mean the film is never less than striking to look at.

Only towards the end does the movie run out of steam, petering out in an increasingly weak and increasingly Spielberg-sentimental series of multiple endings. The result may be much closer to Mission Impossible 3 than anything Dick might have dreamt up, but as a high-budget, high-concept slice of multiplex-friendly Hollywood product, Minority Report does more than enough to please a sizeable majority of viewers.

18th June 2002


The Spielberg-Cruise combo still counts as something of a Hollywood dream ticket, even after the critical drubbing and disappointing box-office reaped by AI Artificial Intelligence and Vanilla Sky. Minority Report at various stages so strongly recalls both those movies that it certainly can’t be considered a drastic departure for either director or star – but it is, thankfully, a decided improvement. There are some really stunning things here, more than enough to make up for the various problems of pacing and plotting that start to become noticeable around the half-way mark.

Only the basic elements of Philip K Dick’s original short story have been retained in Scott (Out of Sight) Frank’s script: in the year 2054, murder in Washington DC has been almost entirely wiped out thanks to an experimental programme known as Precrime. The system interprets the dreams of three “precogs” – mutants capable of seeing future murders — and arrests the perpetrators before they can carry out their killings. Cruise is John Anderton, a high-ranking Precrime cop forced to go on the run when the precogs identify him as a future killer.

The first hour is a knock-out : we’re transported into a coherent vision of a cool, glassy, blue-grey-tinged future, then barrelled along on a slam-bang series of action pieces that match anything in Cruise’s Mission Impossible movies. The production design is outstanding from top to bottom, with an array of technological gizmos and gadgets ranging from the amusingly gross (the cops “sick-stick” that incapacitates felons by making them projectile-vomit) to the delightfully elegant (snooping electronic spiders that work in teams and can sneak under doors). The overall look of the movie isn’t entirely original, however — the sleek, cool lines and sharp retro tailoring are straight from Gattaca, while the scuzzier aspects of this future Washington firmly adhere to standard Blade Runner conventions, with a few Paul Verhoevenish touches and nods to eXistenZ.

eXistenZ, however, ran less than 90 minutes. Minority Report is almost an hour longer, and still manages to give Samantha Morton (as the most gifted precog) very little to do. The action sequences keep things going but, dazzling as they are, they can’t match the understated, perfectly judged (and subtly FX-enhanced) scene when the fugitive Anderton visits the inventor of Precrime (forties noir veteran Lois Smith) in her plant-lab conservatory. But there’s also much extraneous stuff that just gets in the way, and you don’t need any precog talent to spot some of the twists a long time before they happen.

Its almost impossible to make this kind of propulsive sci-fi thriller material stretch even to two hours, and Spielberg doesn’t do himself any favours by indulging in the same home-stretch sentimentality that afflicted AI at the exact same stage. Ultimately Minority Report feels like a very big song-and-dance about not very much — but there’s easily enough here to make the ride worthwhile.

14th June, 2002

For the pre cog version of this review click here

by Neil Young