Friday, January 2, 2009


You know that a science fiction film, like the new Steven Spielberg movie "Minority Report" starring Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell, is in trouble when the background elements are more interesting than the foreground elements. Based on a sci-fi short story by legendary author Philip K. Dick, whose writings have inspired Gary Felder's "Impostor" (2001), Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" (1982), and Paul Verhoven's "Total Recall" (1990), "Minority Report" (** out of ****) tops the inept "Impostor" but lacks the exciting agility of either "Total Recall" or "Blade Runner." While the 'what if' premise of the Philip K. Dick short story and the script by Scott ("Get Shorty") Frank and newcomer Jon Cohen provokes thought, director Steven Spielberg bungles both premise and promise. Not only does Spielberg wear out his welcome with an exhaustive epic that runs a half-hour too long, but also he botches what could have been the equal of any of his action-packed "Raiders" trilogy or "The Lost World." Quite simply, "Minority Report" degenerates into a shallow, derivative sci-fi saga that bogs down too often in its own pseudo-technical gibberish and never delivers the hallowing hair-raising heroics that it promises.

"Minority Report" unfolds in Washington, D.C., in the year 2054. Over the past six years, nobody has murdered anybody, thanks to a pioneering crime-prevention program called 'Pre-Crime' that can predict a homicide before it happens. Inventors Lamar Burgess (Max Von Sydow of "The Exorcist") and Iris Hineman (Lois Smith of "The Pledge") devised this system that relies on three psychics (one woman and two men) called "Pre-Cogs" buoyed in a wading pool who have visions of future crimes. The Justice Department dispatches Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell of "American Outlaws") to check out the system before they adopt it for nation-wide use. Witwer suspects the system is flawed, no matter what Pre-Crime Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise of "Vanilla Sky") claims to the contrary. Suddenly, Anderton finds himself in a predicament when the Pre-Cogs say he has murder on his mind. Anderton is supposed to kill somebody that he has never met in the next 36 hours. Predictably, Anderton runs. Not only does he resist arrest, but also he kidnaps one of the Pre-Cogs, former crack-baby Agatha (Samantha Morton), who insists that he would kill and run. Along the way, we learn Anderton lost his son; uses illegal drugs, and is divorced.

Spielberg blows it from the beginning with an action scene that wanders in circles. Things grow worse as the plot thickens, and we learn how the lottery style 'Pre-Crime System' works. At least ten continuity errors crop up, but what is worst is Spielberg never lets the action scenes off the leash. Instead, peripheral elements, such as the Magnetic Levitation traffic system that prevents traffic jams and the 'sick stick' that the cops use to incapacitate wrongdoers by making them instantly vomit, are more interesting than the contrived, drawn- out, convoluted story. Tom Cruise makes a convincingly vulnerable hero, but nothing about "Minority Report" is as convincing or insightful as his performance.

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