If Steven Spielberg lost a few fans from his high-concept, high-tech summer blockbuster of last year, A.I., Hollywood's grown-up boy wonder has more than made amends with Minority Report. A dazzling and bravura spectacle as thrilling to watch as it is to digest, Minority Report is officially the best movie of the summer and perhaps the finest sci-fi film since The Matrix.
Making good on the best aspects of A.I., namely that stark and singular look of a future dominated, but not quite overwhelmed by technology, Spielberg creates a stunning world where the past and present collide. Based on a short story by the popular (and recently deceased) science fiction author Philip K. Dick, Minority Report is set in Washington, D.C. in the year 2054. It is there that John Anderton (Tom Cruise) heads up a recently-developed wing of the Justice Department called the Pre-Crime unit. Having essentially eliminated the act of murder, Pre-Crime uses the power of three unique psychics called Pre-Cogs to convict would-be, or rather "will-be," killers before they commit their crimes. Harnessing the visions of the Pre-Cogs (who lie in a chamber called the Temple, suspended in a pool of fluid with electrodes attached to their brains), the Pre-Crime division is literally played the scene of a murder before it actually happens and given the names of both the victim and killer-the key is for them to get there in time.
Under a critical national review, the Pre-Crime unit is on the verge of becoming the generalized method of crime-fighting. Coming in from the District Attorney's office to evaluate the program is Danny Witwer (up-and-coming star, Colin Farrell). Questioning the morality and legitimacy of a system that relies entirely on the notion of predetermination, Danny is looking for a glitch in the program. That glitch comes in spades when John transmits the vision a future murder that he is supposed to commit. Quickly turning from top cop to enemy number one, John is forced to go on the lam in order to figure out who framed him or, perhaps, why he is going to kill a man he hasn't known until today. Addled by a secret drug addiction and haunted by the death of his son and subsequent collapse of his marriage, John is on the run to put the pieces of his life back together and save his neck in the process.
Much more than a simple scenario of hunter becoming the hunted, Minority Report combines the best elements of science-fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and chase films. With just enough plot twists and turns to keep audiences alert without making them confused, Minority Report maintains a perfect pace and balance throughout. Aided by Dick's wildly inventive source material, Spielberg is given the perfect jumping-off point for his filmmaking. Expanding on the fascinating premise of a world controlled by a preemptive system of crime and punishment, Spielberg's film is full of wonderful nods to a society that gives you what you want before you even know you want it. Overflowing with brand identifications, Spielberg showcases his genius as a filmmaker here with his vision of futuristic advertising. Since people are identified everywhere they go in this world by their eyes (the retinas are constantly scanned for identification), billboards can actually speak to passers-by and customize their slogans. In one of many great scenes, Anderton is walking through a mall and goes by a multitude of ads, each one calling out his name and pitching specifically to him-"John Anderton, you need a Guinness; John Anderton, card member since 2032; John Anderton, get away to the Bahamas." Reminiscent of the wonderful play on commercialism and corporatization Spielberg evoked in Jurassic Park (there, the director placed the titular theme park logo on familiar objects like cups and t-shirts throughout, reminding viewers that dinosaurs weren't the only things being mass-produced in and by his film), Minority Report also delivers a fiendishly fun yet caustic view of our brand name society.
Advertising aside, Minority Report is also stocked with heart-stopping chase scenes and thrilling special effects-be alert for Cruise's unique car-hopping scene (on a highway which runs vertical instead of horizontal) and those wonderful guns that seem to ripple the entire screen like a wave.
Having apparently brought together a group of unique experts, ranging from M.I.T. scientists to sci-fi authors like Douglas Coupland, in order to get input on what the world of Minority Report should look like, Spielberg's extensive homework paid off. It's safe to say that summer does not belong to a young Jedi after all, but instead, to a fallen cop on the lam.