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Minority Report (2002)
Director: Steven Spielberg
review by Jen Johnston
Minority Report takes place in the year 2054. Murder has become a thing of the past, thanks to the pre-crime division of Washington D.C., and a trio of gifted psychics (called pre-cogs) who can see every detail of a homicide before it happens. In 2054 you can be arrested for this crime before you commit it. Pre-crime's Chief, John Anderton (Tom Cruise), believed in the system's infallibility - until it accused him of being exactly what he sets out each day to capture: a killer.
From his first moments on screen, quasi-conducting visuals of a murder about to take place, to his final moments, Cruise is impossible to look away from. You truly do believe in him as the head of this groundbreaking crime stopping method. Cruise's cool detachment as he watches a killing that will happen really adds to the genuine feeling of his portrayal. His tough skin acts as a top layer for the role, covering grief for the loss of his son, frustration over his separation from his wife. Cruise has some fantastic moments, suffering through home movies of his estranged family that he can't look away from, struggling with his beliefs as more and more shadowed facts come to life. Some scenes give the aura of a complete innocence, and in some scenes that aura changes to that of a psychopath beyond all reason. One of Cruise's most moving on screen moments is contained within Minority Report (it involves reading someone their rights), and it moved me to tears. Cruise's masterful turn as Anderton, added with the fact that the script called for him to submerge himself in a bathtub of ice, and he didn't scream at the top of his lungs, is recommendation enough for this film.
Samantha Morton's performance as Agatha, the most talented of the trio of pre-cogs is amazing. Here, like Cruise, is a performer whose eyes are complete tools of expression. Her portrait of Agatha as an adult child, lost in constant visions of violence is flawless. Agatha's reaction to an outside world she's never been exposed to is of believable terror. The scene of her frantic flood of predictions in the shopping centre is worth an Oscar nomination all by itself. Her mannerisms are perfect; her extreme emotions make an unrealistic character real. After all, how many of us could retain control of our faculties being constantly bombarded with terrible acts of murder?
Colin Farrell (Tigerland) is utterly magnetic as Agent Danny Witwer, federal investigator. His character, like Cruise's Anderton, believes that the pre-crime system can work, but adds an authenticity to his ideal by examining the programme for flaws. From the outset the audience is meant to dislike his character, because Witwer is threatening the hero. As the movie progresses though, you find yourself liking Witwer more and more, as you realise just how similar his and Cruise's characters actually are. Both are idealists, both are fighting to support the organisation that they hold so dear. Farrell though, makes the audience uneasy about their empathy by keeping us in the dark as to Witwer's motives. Is he actually trying to bring in Anderton because he believes the pre-cogs visions of his homicidal act were right? Or, is he trying to get Anderton's job by sending him to prison? Farrell shows himself as a smouldering scrapper in his every scene with Cruise. Rather than backing down, you see him try and elevate himself to surpass Cruise, who then elevates his performance to match Farrell's. Farrell has truly proven himself here, holding his own against Minority Report's star, and also against Morton, and veteran actor Max Von Sydow without breaking a sweat. Farrell's greatest attribute, aside from the coal black eyes, is his acting energy. It is completely in line with the boxing credo of aiming all punches six inches past their targets. In the same way, Farrell is never content with merely giving intensity to scenes; he makes every one he appears in momentous. (To say nothing of the fact that I am in complete awe of his ability to run on wet cement in patent leather shoes.)
I doubt anyone would disagree with me if I were to call this movie a stunning work of art. (I hate sounding like a movie poster, but in this case it's actually true.) The futuristic Washington D.C., the astonishing shopping centre, the cars that everyone agrees are the best advertisement that Lexus could every hope for, the gorgeous gardens... they are all unbelievably breathtaking. Minority Report has taken all the chilling splendour of the visuals of A.I. - Artificial Intelligence, and added the strength of great actors making its backdrops exquisite.
Along with the comeliness of director Steven Spielberg's future though, came two things that dismayed me: that in 2054 spiders will be used in tracking down criminals. This would be a major clue that you're watching a science fiction film. Nature would never stand for this. Helpfulness is not the spider's natural role. Their natural role is that of nightmare inducing demon creatures. That in 2054 Cops will still be on TV. I'm not sure which of those is more ghastly. This is, bar none, one of the best movies that I have ever seen. Stop reading this review now, and go buy your tickets. It can't fail to move you.
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