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Did those wildly dramatic promos running on television the last couple of weeks
for Steven Spielberg’s and Tom Cruise’s latest film, “Minority Report” get
your movie-going blood charged up?

Now, I do hate to be a spoilsport, but I’ve got to say I suspect the audiences
who made “Scooby Doo” into the No. 1 film in the land last week
aren’t really going to fall all over themselves piling in to see this fairly
grim trip into the future. “Mission Impossible 2″ it’s not.

Technically, “Minority Report” looks great. Washington, D.C. in the year 2054
still appears recognizable even with wondrous motorways – maglevs – that
rout traffic straight down vertically from skyscraper heights, giving a
splendid high-tension scene for our hero leaping agilely downwards from one
swiftly moving vehicle to the next on the steep descent. Lexus – a lot of
product payment at work here – designed a super scarlet getaway car in which
Tom Cruise makes a dramatic escape.

And the flying policemen so brilliantly featured in the TV promos are pretty
nifty too, not to mention the cunning little electronic “spiders” that creep
and crawl everywhere checking out people’s IDs by scanning their eyes. The
malls of tomorrow with their large moving ads replacing store windows (shades
of “Blade Runner”) make you feel we may already be on that slippery little
step forward in a decade, maybe. Every citizen is identified by retinal
scanning, and all pertinent details like shopping patterns are recorded.

Those retinal scans give rise to one of the more ghoulish scenes in which Tom
Cruise on the run has his eyes removed by a sleazy doctor but keeps his own
baby blues in a Ziploc – which comes in handy at a later point when he needs
his original eyes to scan him self into the Pre-Crime quarters.

But now we come down to the actual content. The story is not without its
timely overtones. Washington has devised a strange system whereby three
mutants floating in a large pool can foresee future crimes. Tom Cruise heads
the Pre-Crime Division. When the thoughts of the Pre-Cogs, as they are known,
are projected onto giant screens, Cruise – arms in air like some Kurt Masur
leading an invisible orchestra, along with a judge on another screen – locates
and heads a crew to stop the actual crime from being committed.

The opening sequence of the film lays out with maximum
on-the-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense the foiling of a crime of passion.
Crime rates are dramatically down – down to nearly zero in the District. Now the federal government wants to step in to make this method of crime busting
national. Enter a potential villain from the Justice Department played by Colin Farrell, who intends to check out the system firsthand.

Next thing you know, the Pre-Cogs envision hero Cruise will shortly be
killing a man – a man Cruise doesn’t know and has never seen. The escape and
ensuing exciting chase is on, in the course of which, he learns the Pre-Cogs
are not infallible. The defects in the system have been filed in a minority
report. And he must find that report before the whole country adopts the
Pre-Crime system.

Spielberg and his screenwriters Scott Frank and Jon Cohen, working from a
downbeat short story of the late sci-fi icon Philip K. Dick, have turned out a
dark, chilly tale touching on, but not really coming to grips with, the issues
of predestination and free will. The female Pre-Cog (a moving performance by
Samantha Morton) is kidnapped by Cruise. Her mantra, “You have a choice,” is
picked up by Cruise and is almost the last phrase in the long film – two hours
and 17 minutes.

The latter hour of the film gets on the plodding side, and the audience gets a
tad too much time to consider the various and sundry parts of the plot that
don’t add up. A last scene of a happy end doesn’t succeed in lightening the
grim feel of much of the picture. It’s shades of “AI: Artificial
Intelligence” crossed with “Eyes Wide Shut.”

Spielberg was clearly aiming for a film to make audiences think about deep
issues, but he also wanted to get as many people into the theaters as
possible. “Scooby Doo” may still rule the roost when the dust settles this
summer.

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