Friday, October 9, 2015

CANON OF FILM: "MINORITY REPORT"

MINORITY REPORT (2002)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Scott Frank and Jon Cohen based on the short story by Philip K. Dick



You hardly ever hear it brought up even among Steven Spielberg's best but it's now abundantly clear that "Minority Report" is truly among his best films. I'm not quite sure why it took so long though. I've always regarded it that highly but it split some critics originally and was mostly shutout when it came to award season, only getting an Oscar nomination for the Sound Editing. I think the big mark that most people had against it is when they compared it to that other film noir/sci-fi mixed genre film that's based on a Philip K. Dick work. There's definitely a lot of similarities but while "Blade Runner" is certainly a groundbreaking and influential film, I've always been somewhat baffled as to why it was so highly-regarded. It created a new and distinct universe, although I never thought it was a believable one. and that's the only appeal especially since whatever cut of the movie is used, the last reveal of Deckart's true nature doesn't change or alter the film/story in any way. (Alright maybe a little in The Final Cut, but not really. It doesn't actually matter if he's a replicant or not 'cause nothing changes either way, and I think the fact that there are so many versions gives credence to that argument, since even the filmmakers keep trying to alter or change it so that it supposedly matters.)

"Minority Report" on the other hand, now seems strangely more realistic than it is science-fiction. Those amazing sequence of John Anderton (Tom Cruise) being locked into the visions of the precogs, and by hand, able to sort through all the visual information was some great special effects at the time, but now it seems almost prophetic. Actually, that was intentional; Spielberg made a point to set the movie only fifty or so years into the future and he consulted with a team of future experts, the most knowledgeable people in the field of technological advancements to hypothesize the next fifty years. He also purposefully contrasted the modern technology with relics of the recent past, co-existing side-by-side with each other. That doesn't mean there aren't imaginative pieces of sci-fi thrown in. I doubt the spiders that scan people's eyes are apart of our future (I'm not even really sure the eye scans thing is even workable, although I've heard recently that it is possible now, so maybe...) or the stick that makes people involuntarily throw up, but there's nothing's too out there in the film.

I'm focusing a great deal on the look at effects of the film, but that's partly because despite all of this, the story itself is oddly classical.  It definitely uses the look, style and motifs of film noir but really the movie is a wronged-man mystery; the movie that the film reminds me the most of oddly is Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much", also about a guy on the run from the law because he found out something about what was going to happen. There's a lot of Hitchcock here, including the famous fight scene between Anderton and his rival Witmer (Colin Farrell) was a scene inspired by a famous cut scene from "North By Northwest". Anderton goes on the run after the precogs see a vision of him murdering a man named Leo Crow (Mike Binder) who he doesn't even know. The precogs are three siblings twins Arthur and Dashiell (Matthew and Michael Dickman) and their sister Agatha (Samantha Morton) who for some reasons, have the combined ability to see murders before they actually happen, and for years now, they were co-opted by the Washington D.C. police and it's led to a town where murder no longer occurs, and there's now a vote coming up to take the Pre-Crime program national. In the midst of this action thriller is this idea of the morality of such a system, possibly foreshadowing the moralistic implications of the torture tactics that were used in a post 9/11 world, but it's also a film that looks at the possibility of what happens when one finds out about their future as a killer, and whether they have a choice or not to go through with their actions. And whether or not a foolproof system that can correctly see the future, is in fact perfect, or even if it is, can it be faulty, and if so, how and by who? There's a lot going on in the film than just the typical plot treadmarks of the plot, but it even works brilliantly and logically on that front as well.

There's so many ways to dissect "Minority Report" in theory, that you can almost forget just how entertaining a thriller it is to watch. This is where you really have to give Spielberg the most credit; he is the only director who could've made this movie at the time. Nobody else is as classical a filmmaker that he still cuts in camera when shooting, and he's also the only one who's a master of modern special effects and technology to pull this film off. It worked so well that now there's a television series based on it. Believe it or not, the movie originated somewhere in the earliest drafts as a sequel to "Total Recall", before Scott Frank and Jon Cohen eventually got their hands on it and took more inspiration from the original short story. "Minority Report" is what every great  sci-fi movie should be, it should make you think while challenging the wisdom of it's own universe, ergo challenging the thoughts of our own, while also just being an exciting action-packed thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Not just combining the best of the genre, but it's also throws in nearly everything that's the best of Spielberg, even some of his more eye-wandering motifs, like the broken family protagonist, but it all works here, and amazing well. It's hard to call any Spielberg film his best, the guy who made "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Jaws", "Schindler's List", "Saving Private Ryan", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "Munich", among others. for Christ's sake, but... yeah, this is in the conversation.
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