Minority Report


Produced by Dreamworks Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox.

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Jon Cohen & Scott Frank, based on the short story by Philip K. Dick
Featuring Tom Cruise, Max Von Sydow, Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell, Kathryn Morris

Running time: 145 minutes. Rated PG-13

Released to movie theaters in June 2002.


Reviewed by Hans Sherrer (7-25-02)


Wow! Is a one word summary of Minority Report.


A futuristic mystery thriller set in the Washington D.C. of 2054, Minority Report hits on all cylinders and is so captivating that it can alter one's normal perception of time. I misread the movies length as 1 hour 45 minutes instead of 145 minutes, and I didn’t realize I had made a 40 minute mistake until after the movie was over. Minority Report’s creation of a time warp is only one of its successes.


Minority Report works so well in no small part because perhaps for the first time in his career, front man Tom Cruise succeeds in making you forget that he is Tom Cruise. It is fitting that he makes the movie work on the screen, because he was the movie’s driving force off the screen. After Cruise bought the movie rights he sold Steven Spielberg on the idea of directing the movie and having Dreamworks produce it. Cruise is ably supported by a well chosen cast that includes Max von Sydow.


Based on a Philip K. Dick’s 1956 short story of the same name, Minority Report revolves around the simple idea that in the not too distant future the psyche of gifted humans, called Precogs, are melded with computer technology to identify a person who will commit a murder. The Precogs foretelling of what will come to pass enables a would be murderer to be to be tracked down and captured by a special Precrime police unit prior to committing his or her crime. Tom Cruise is the head of the Precrime unit, and it roams around in black helicopters and kicks open doors without a warrant while functioning as a quasi-renegade group that is backed by the power and authority of the government. In a futuristic twist on the lynch mobs of old, would be murderers are tried, convicted and sentenced at the time they are taken into custody by Precrime officers. The sentence pronounced and executed by Precrime on those it captures is always the same: condemnment to the living death of existing in a limbo state created by an electronic device referred to as a “halo” that is placed on the person’s head.


One of the movies twists is when Cruise is identified by the Precogs as a murderer to be. He instantly had an “ah ha” moment realizing the injustice of being “haloed” without having committed a crime, and he went from being the hunter to one of those hunted by his former Precrime colleagues.


With the notable exception of a cartoonish and obviously fake scene that has Tom Cruise jumping across the roof of cars that are traveling for what seems like hours down a vertical freeway, the special effects in Minority Report have the eerie feeling of being a visualization of what is only a step away from being reality. The Precrime unit, for example, has small electronic “spiders” that relentlessly search in packs for the heat of a human body. When a person is found, a spider climbs up them and shines a laser beam in one of their eyes to conduct a retinal scan that identifies the person from a master government database. That is so close to what is real that it can't be called science fiction. It is hard to even call it futuristic. Not only is there an ongoing debate over directly linking everyone in the U.S. to a national database that would enable Americans to be easily tracked by the government, but it was recently reported that the U.S. Government has financed the development of electronic monitoring devices the size of grains of sand designed to transmit for centuries. Borrowing a page from how insecticides are now sprayed, helicopters could spread these “sand grains” through the air over populated areas. They would then monitor large numbers of people wherever they land.


Even the concept that gifted Precogs can foretell the future is reflected in the publicity given to remote viewing and the use of brain scans to try and establish what a person has or has not done. Implicit in Minority Report's storyline is the profound question of where does freewill begin or end and predestination take over?


Minority Report is just too smashingly good to spoil by spilling the beans on any more of the story. I will note, however, that of the glowing reviews I've seen for the movie, not a one mentions what underlies the movies name. That silence about the meaning of the movie’s title is odd. It seems that as far as mainstream reviewers are concerned, it would have made no difference to them if the title was, Tom Cruise Goes To 2054. Yet, the flow of the movie is towards explaining in its final scenes why  it is called Minority Report. Those reviewers also failed to mention the profound implications Minority Report’s theme has for exposing the present day misjustice imposed on the untold thousands of innocent men and women who are wrongly accused, prosecuted, convicted, sentenced and imprisoned every year in this country. Minority Report makes it crystal clear that a supposition of possible wrongdoing by someone is radically different than physical proof they actually committed a crime.


Whether you are in the mood for an above average action thriller, an offbeat mystery, a futuristic drama, or a thoughtful commentary on the danger of accusing and punishing people of criminal wrongdoing in the absence of physical proof they are guilty, Minority Report could be a grand time at the movies for you.