Directed by Steven Spielberg. USA. 2002.
Reviewed by Jen Johnston and Jamie Garwood
Sitting in the theatre waiting for the movie to start, I saw a preview that began quite well. There’s a shot meant to capture the vastness of space, and an incredibly textured space station. Then the typical teaser lines go flashing across the screen “There are some places man was never meant to go....” “Hmmmmm...” I said. “This looks promising.” Then, with one word, I became exacerbated beyond all reasoning. That word? “Solaris.” James Cameron (The perplexing Oscar winning Titanic) man who has publicly suggested raising ticket prices to keep his movies production levels where they are, KING of missing the point, is remaking Andrei Tarkovsky’s master work. Why? Does it need updating? No. Should he change the story? Are there flaws? NO. The only possible explanation that I can come up with is that the man is so UNBELIEVABLY full of himself that he thinks he can do a better job. Here’s a news bulletin for whomever came up with this commercially suicidal plan.. The only way to do this, is to NOT alter Stanislaw Lem’s story. NOT at all. NOT even a little bit. That’s the only way you will have any part of my sci-fi fan brethren in the theatre. If you have managed to not alter the story at all, I would suggest publicizing that fact heavily, because right now we are all in agreement, with a reader who sent a letter to Premiere magazine expressing his opinion on this subject,
and I quote,
“James Cameron.....keep your grubby hands off Solaris.”
Phew I’m fine.
Now, the review.....
To the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye. Your feelings have probably been hurt by the nasty names I’ve called you for omitting some of my favourites from the Oscar race. I do hope, however that you’ll be able to move past that to accept the fact that Minority Report deserves to take home every award you’ve got next year. You may even want to consider creating some new ones. Best Dressed Cast, for example, or maybe even Best Cereal Box (those who have seen the movie will get that one). Just a thought.
Minority Report takes place in the year 2054. Murder has become a thing of the past, thanks to Washington D.C.’s pre-crime division 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 crimes before you commit them. Pre-Crime’s Chief John Anderton believed in the systems’ infallibility. Until it accused him of being exactly what he sets out each day to capture; a killer.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
From his first moments on screen, quasi-conducting visuals of a murder about to take place, to his final moments Cruise (Born on the Fourth of July, Risky Business) 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, underneath lies 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. His eyes are his greatest weapon, as all the way through “Minority Report” he uses them to his advantage. Some scenes, they give the aura of a complete innocent, 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 Reports borders, (involving reading someone their rights) and it moved me to tears. His masterful turn as John 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) makes Cruise’s performance alone, enough to recommend this film.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
Morton’s (Sweet and Lowdown, Eden) performance as Agatha, the most talented of the trio of pre-cogs is amazing. Here, like Cruise, is a performer who’s 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 a 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 such a terrible act?
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
Farrell (Tigerland, Hart’s War) 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 program 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 realize just how similar his and Cruise’s characters actually are. Both are idealists, both are fighting to support the organization 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 John 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, but 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 6 inches past their targets. In the same way, Farrell is never content with merely giving a scene intensity. 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.)
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
I don’t think 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 it’s backdrops exquisite.
Along with the comeliness of the Director Steven Spielberg’s future though, came two things that dismayed me:
1) 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 spiders’ natural role. Their natural role is that of nightmare inducing demon creatures.
2) That in 2054 COPS will still be on TV.
I’m not sure which of those is more ghastly.
Those who know me will realize what an impressive statement this is, (those who don’t will just have to trust me).
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.
I wanted to see this film when it initially came out five years ago, but the opportunity goes astray and you find yourself waiting for another chance. So when the chance comes to purchase it for £3.99 in HMV I take that as a chance. So when I finally got the chance to watch the film in its entirety I was not disappointed.
Spielberg who carried on his science-fiction reinvention after A. I. with this adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story also continued his gratitude to Stanley Kubrick, but in some ways this is perhaps Spielbergs's most Hitchcockian film of his career. Now Spielberg will always be thought of as an auteur in his own right, but when you think of it he is very much a man who is a sum of many parts - part Lean (The Empire of the Sun), part Kubrick, Hitchcock and a man who is endebted to the work of his fellow peers. 1941 is his John Landis picture, Raiders is his Star Wars, Duel and Jaws are the work of a very young Roger Corman; while Sugarland Express shares a lot of motifs with Scorcese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore made in the same year.
But I am getting sidetracked into the foundation of a civil lawsuit and public lynching. Spielberg is a visionary that is a given, but he is also a big movie buff don't forget. The reason I say Minority Report is his Hitchcock film is that it follows the work of Thomas Anderton the head cop of Pre-Crime, a unit in 2054 who stop murders before they happen due to three pre-cog(nitive) beings being able to see these crimes and being able to visualise them for the police to interpret them. When Anderton, at work one day, sees himself trying to solve the whereabouts of a murder he will commit 36 hours from now he goes on the run. Like the best Hitchcock chase films, The Thirty-Nine Steps and the always brilliant North by Northwest; this incorporates the necessity to have a wronged everyman who must naturally run to clear his name. And nobody alive can run as well as Tom Cruise does on screen (the guy always runs). Funnily enough the tagline for this film read more like a Nike trainer advert, 'Everybody Runs'.
After some quite gruesome surgery Cruise must return to the Pre-crime unit and abduct the pre-cog who forsaw his future, the female one Agnes (Samantha Morton). Support comes from Colin Farrell in his first A-class entertainment role playing Danny Woodrow who would like Anderton's job. Farrell more than fits nicely next to Cruise in their dialogue and face-to-face sequences, providing enough needle to Cruise's apparent calm.
Now I cannot give too much away to ruin the film but I will say the film does not have an ending that befits all that goes before it, instead employing that sort of Hollywood resolution suitable for mainstream audiences. The ending is similar close to the end of The Fugitive where Harrison Ford confronts his accuser with the back-up of chaser, Tommy Lee Jones who now believes his word. You may think this is typical of Spielberg, but didn't Hitchcock end North By Northwest with a cliffhanger that became a happyhanger in a cut. That's not typical, that's Hollywood. But it does not stop Minority Report being nothing but brilliant entertainment that only Spielberg could deliver. Maybe he is an auteur after all.
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