Friday, January 31, 2014
(June 2002, U.S.)
The line up of blockbuster films for the Summer of 2002 was particularly intriguing for me. You see, it was the first summer since the horrific events of September 11, 2001 and somehow, I (and all of America, I suppose) was counting on Hollywood to really take us out of our everyday lifestyles of grief, fear and concerns and show us all the forget-your-troubles-fun the movies could (hopefully) still bring us. Sure, there was no doubt that George Lucas' continuing STAR WARS saga of Anakin Skywalker in ATTACK OF THE CLONES would draw me into that galaxy far, far away. Sure, bringing SPIDER-MAN to the screen for the first time and a second installment of MEN IN BLACK (actually, that sequel sucked!) would likely put some sort of smile on my face. However, for a new film by the great Steven Spielberg, I was not only counting on some great fun on screen, but a chance to use my brain, as well. Only one year prior, the man had sparked my cinematic interest and intellect with the high concepts of A.I. and it looked very much like his new film, MINORITY REPORT, based on an original story by Phillip K. Dick (the man who inspired the stories for BLADE RUNNER and TOTAL RECALL) would very likely do the same. Remember, I'm a man who expects nothing but great things from Spielberg. I usually get it, as long as it's not stories about a grown-up Peter Pan or Indiana Jones doing battle with space aliens.
Science fiction is a genre that Spielberg has often never disappointed. MINORITY REPORT is a neo-noir sci-fi thriller set primarily in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia in the year 2054, where an organization known as "PreCrime", a specialized police department, apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge of future crimes provided by three psychics called "precogs". The primary character of Captain John Anderton is played by none other than Tom Cruise; someone Spielberg confessed to always wanting to work with ever since seeing him in RISKY BUSINESS (1983). The police use visions of the future generated by the three "precogs", which are mutated humans with precognitive abilities, to stop murders before they actually happen. Because of this, the city has been murder-free for many years. Though John is a respected member of the force, he's also addicted to something called "Clarity", an illegal psychoactive drug he's been using ever since the disappearance of his son Sean. With the PreCrime force poised to go nationwide, the system is audited by Danny Witwer (played by Colin Farrell), a member of the United States Justice Department searching for flaws in the system. During the audit, the precogs predict that John himself will murder a man named Leo Crow in 36 hours. Believing the incident to be a setup to frame him, John to hide the case and quickly flees the area before a massive city-wide manhunt begins for him. While John is continuously on the run from the law, he slowly learns the history and the truth about Precrime technology through Dr. Iris Hineman (played by Lois Smith), its lead researcher. We learn that sometimes the three precogs see different visions of the future, in which case the system only provides data on the two reports which agree; the "minority report", which reflects the potential future where a predicted killer would have done something different, is then discarded. According to her, the female precog named Agatha (played by Samantha Morton) is most likely to be the precog that witnesses the minority report, as she is considered the most intelligent as the female. So as the clock continues to tick down to the moment where John is face-to-face with Leo Crow, we suddenly learn that Crow appears to be the man who took and murdered John's son. Whoahh! Now it all begins to come together and make sense. For the entire chase, we've come to believe that John is an innocent man, guilty-as-framed. Suddenly we can see why he would kill Leo Crow...and so can John! Up until the very last moment, we're convinced that the precog's prediction of the murder will come true, and like I said, it all makes sense.
(but hold the phone!)
Just when you think it's all wrapped up nice and tidy, Spielberg turns the tables on us. Not only does John make the conscious choice NOT to murder Leo Crow (apparently Crow was a set up to only APPEAR to be his son's murderer), but the original notion of John's set-up still manages to hold water. The chase resumes, followed by John's capture and then his subsequent escape from his own people, leading to the point where he'll discover the truth. This, my friends, is where the ol' fashioned concept of movie cliche clicks in where the one who set John up is the person he least likely suspected...namely his own boss and trusted friend Director Lamar Burgess (played by Max von Sydow). So while Burgess begins to hunt down John, a new PreCrime report is created in which John is the victim and Burgess is the murderer. By the end of the film, in what I can only compare to the "who dunnit" resolution of a great Agatha Christie story, John explains a rather impossible situation that goes something like this: if Burgess kills Anderton, he proves the system of PreCrime works but at the cost of a life sentence, while if he does not, the system will not have worked and the PreCrime division will be shut down forever (get it??). We all learn the fundamental flaw in the great system in that if one knows his or her future, he or she can actually change it. Perhaps its also here that the thought-provoking analysis of such a system come into question and whether or not its ethics are reasonably open for debate. One can claim that such a concept as a reality could work because it would save many lives. But how could we truly convict those who'd not actually committed the crime of their own freewill...yet.
And so, it's like I said. The Summer of 2002 gave us some great fun at the movies. But leave it to a thinking man like Steven Spielberg to ask us to take a moment to think, as well. Tall order, considering too many movies playing on multiplex screens today don't dare ask a member of its audience to think. No, that would just hurt too much!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Agatha: "Sean...he's on the beach now, a toe in the water. He's asking you to come in with him. He's been racing his mother up and down the sand. There's so much love in this house. He's ten years-old. He's surrounded by animals. He wants to be a vet. You keep a rabbit for him, a bird and a fox. He's in high school. He likes to run, like his father. He runs the two-mile and the long relay. He's twenty-three. He's at a university. He makes love to a pretty girl named Claire. He asks her to be his wife. He calls here and tells Lara, who cries. He still runs. Across the university and in the stadium, where John watches. Oh God, he's running so fast, just like his daddy. He sees his daddy. He wants to run to him. But he's only six years-old, and he can't do it. And the other men are so fast. There was so much love in this house.
John (crying): "I want him back so bad."
Agatha: "So did she. Can't you see? She just wanted her little girl back. But it was too late. Her little girl was already gone."
John: "She's still alive."
Agatha: "She didn't die, but she's not alive."
John: "Agatha, just tell me, who killed your mother? Who killed Anne Lively?"
Agatha: "I'm sorry John, but you're gonna have to run again. '
Agatha (screaming): "R-U-U-U-U-U-U-U-N-N-N-N-N-N-N-N-N!!!"