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Jordan Hiller on Film


Minority Report


If there ever was a movie that suffers for its insatiable desire to please, ladies and gentleman I present to you Minority Report. This is understandable, however, because the collaboration at hand - the one that sells this movie in any market in the universe - is between Spielberg and Cruise, two men who have built careers ("careers" being an understatement) packaging the product humans crave. Of course both have occasionally (and more recently) taken risks. Cruise did Magnolia and a few Cameron Crowe flicks and Spielberg, before making last years A.I., told the media, "I have spent my career making movies that make others happy, now I'm making movies that make me happy". Well hell Steve! We obviously have better taste. But regardless of Mr. Spielberg's statement, I have to accuse him of lying or at least telling a Hollywood truth.

Perhaps A.I. was some cerebral anti-establishment work of art that will be reevaluated in ten years and then be praised to the heavens (just ask that Dworken guy), but Minority Report is an unabashed attempt at a summer crowd pleaser and there is no shame in that; the shame is in Spielberg being exposed so nakedly as a sentimentalist (although Schindler's List is one of the most raw motion pictures of all time), a man who overindulges at the expense of the story, and a director who may need to study some of his earlier work to reacquaint himself with the purity of filmmaking.

The story is based on a sci-fi bag of tricks from writer Philip K. Dick and it teems with imagination and philosophical imponderables, but perhaps in screenwriters Scott Frank and John Cohen's extraction, they grabbed blindly without enough consideration, or added plot points without consideration. Something was done without considering the
audience, our patience, and intelligence. Like A.I., the great movie that should have made it to the screen is forty five minutes shorter than the rather good movie we get in its place. So we put our money down and in return Spielberg delivers the fireworks early and throughout. The special effects and ingenuitive futuristic sets and gizmos are excellent.

Tom cruise plays a fine flawed hero glossed to perfection by a director who knows how to treat his cast to their matinee idol advantage. Cruise, a natural talent, eases his way through this role - although it does require some range, he never needs to stretch; he has covered all of these emotions before in various projects. We also get smolderingly good Colin Farrell (Tigerland) who wins rookie of the year after going head to head and holding his own, first with Bruce Willis (Hart's War) and now with Cruise. The heavy artillery on display here is not anything or
anyone that we "see"; Minority Report is essentially an exhausting decathlon for the brain.

Cruise plays Detective John Anderton, the top cop of an elite and experimental Pre-Crime unit, working in Washington D.C. 50 years into the future. What is Pre-Crime? Oh, that's easy enough...After designer drugs become so vile that....women taking these drugs give birth to sick children who have the ability to visualize events that never happened yet... wait...not just events...tragic events like murder..wait... not all murders..forget it, you'll find it cool and it doesn't even matter. The story is inherently impossible and so many bonus twists and turns were thrown in to make the whole thing a jumble not worth completely unscrambling. What does matter is only how many times you offer up this expression: "Ohhhh?cooool" (you say this when you think you get it). Our transcendentalist theme for the day is - Can we justify punishing the criminal before any crime has been committed, even if the crime is supposedly inevitable. This wont exactly be a novel concept for those of us raised on Torah study or, in the alternative, those of us banging our rabbis occasionally over the past twenty years (that was one of those "in context" jokes). For anyone who sat through the yearly "why was Pharaoh punished even before he did anything" discussion, the Pre-Crime contradiction is kind of old hat, but it still tingles the ethical curiosity. As you will learn in drama class, every story needs a beginning, a crisis, a climax, and a conclusion. Spielberg nails the beginning, presents an intriguing crisis (Anderton is "convicted" of a pre-crime and runs from the law in order to discover the truth), but from there?.not so much.

To our dismay, we are provided with a barrage of unnecessarily overt "quirky" characters in bit parts (Lois Smith's scientist, Tim Blake Nelson's dim bulb prison guard, and Peter Stormare's plastic surgeon who's motives are incomprehensible) and too many way-too-standard-for-this-caliber-of-movie plot contrivances (everyone knows by now to ignore the outstandingly "bad" guy and to watch out for the trusting confidant - especially when that confidant is played by an actor know for roles as villains). Furthermore, we receive heaping tablespoons of bogus and hollow moments of "anxiety" (by far the most irritating is the one with those balloons - yuck!), a performance by a presumably talented actress, Samantha Morton (haled for work in Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown), given nothing to do but whimper with freakish absurdity as one of the "precognitive" murder prophets, and plenty of Spielbergian heart (A kidnapped and murdered son spurs Anderton on to inner and outer struggles - will he find peace!?). Whether you are sick of that or not by now is a personal decision, but why settle for manufactured emotion when there are movies out there like In the Bedroom and Moulin Rouge. I guess I'm done venting now. It would have been nice if this was a better piece of work, that's all - a solid summer entertainment with smarts it is, I can't take that away. With a little bit of editing it would have been a four star, two thumbs up, whatever your way of saying "damn good". One more thing - besides the fact that within the movie there is something called a minority report, I have no clue why it deserved to be the title of this movie. Think about it and get back to me.

PS - I actually wanted to try something if there are enough readers out there who saw this one. Just write in and we'll place at the bottom of the page the list:
Name any part of this movie that you felt does not make sense, click, or mesh. It could be logically, scientifically, physically, philosophically etc.
-----------------------------

READERS COMMENTS HERE:
 

 

From Naphtali D:
Some observations:
· The real reason it is called 'Minority Report': so the headline 'Minority Wins!!' can write itself.
· Would the world really be any better off solely without murder? Big deal - so you turn to busting kneecaps…DC would still suck.
· The old lady who is obsessed with life (flowers etc.) but is so in touch with death kissing a young guy who is obsessed with death - no, sorry, wrong movie…I'm thinking of Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort in Harold and Maude.  Was I the only one looking for tattooed numbers on the old lady's arm?  Blatant ripoff or homage?  You decide.  (And if you haven't seen Harold and Maude, do not see another movie until you have.)
· I approve of Speilberg's underplayed use of Von Sydow for his Mengelesqueness (why does that come up on my spell-check as unrecognized?).
· "Ok, we'll have a huge fight scene in a manufacturing plant that they just happen to walk in to…everybody but the main guys will disappear and then the two of them will have it out…and let's do it...get this…on a CATWALK!!!…great idea, JD!  Tops, Peterson!"
· Blade Runner is always the template for futuristic movies:
 · Vangelis vs. John Williams: Vangelis wins.
 · Large digital billboards: BR for originality, MR for sophistication.
 · Weird detached eyeball in bags scene: BR for originality, MR for use of Ziploc bag
   (product placement people: nice!)
 · Depiction of the future's gap between the haves and have-nots: the high-tech high-
   touch vs. the wet slimy abyss: BR for originality, MR for product placement.
 · Author whose work was used for the movie: Tie: Philip K Dick wrote both books
  (well that answers a lot of questions…)
 · Bald hysterically shaking teutonic babe: BR wins for use of Darryl Hanna.
· And speaking of hysterically shaking people: why are they so darn scary??  And can't you see into the future or the past or have all these powers without all that shaking?  Refer to: Minority Report, Jacob's Ladder, The Exorcist, Rainman, Back to the Future (sorry, I couldn't help myself).
· Number of Rabbis who will prepare speeches with the title "Minority Report: Bechirah Chofsheet in a Crime Free World": 26.
 

From Erik Gross:
Here is my major problem with the movie:

The Homeless Anorexic Precog: My bladder almost exploded by this overgrown fetus. How many times did I have to see this scene - The homeless precog performs some simulated shivering act then limps over to a dooror a corner where she squats, breathes as if she is about to give birth and screams “RUN!”
 

From Ariella:
Hey there, a few comments:
hey - here's a response to the profound question brought up by A Jordan Fan (#3)

1. In response to it not having been a premeditated crime (and seemingly not deserving of the accompanying brown ball), Cruise commented, upon learning that Crow was the "murderer," that he had dreamt of only 2 things every day since his son's death: what he would look like today, and exacting revenge on the murderer. In having Cruise say this, Spielberg was establishing an intent dating back years, thus meriting the crime's status as premeditated. However, why the precogs didn't see this 10 years ago and produce a brown ball then is another story...

2. On another note, one would think that the advertisments, having recognized Anderton, would have perhaps been able to inform Pre-crime of his whereabouts. Also, since they said his name about a gazillion times after the public was notified of his criminal status. did not one passerby care to notice the WANTED guy walking next to them?

3. It mentioned in the very beginning how precogs could only predict murders due to how they upset the balance of the universe and all, yet it goes on to mention in advertisements for Pre-crime how one woman's rape was prevented. So if you were to argue that the rapist may have meant to murder her as well, how does that then explain how the need for umbrellas and balloons was important enough to be picked up on. AND if you were to say that Agatha was special and more perceptive, what prevented her from picking all this kind of stuff up in the pool?

4. If the big bathtub with the pre-cogs had a drain, you would think that the designer would at least supply it with a faucet or a safety mechanism for the drain so that drainage wouldn't so easily occur.

More From A Jordan Fan:

1.) In a movie that wants itself to be taken seriously - Anderton trapped at the bottom of a car that is in the process of being manufactured, where we see about 8 different steel tentacles charge their way with lightning speed into the vehicle and administer a flurry of bolts and flames - AND ANDERTON IS COMPLETELY UNSCATHED!!!! not only that - sitting upright in the drivers seat ready to go....wait same scene....

2.) He gets up, smiles at his pursuers, and drives the car right off the manufacturing floor and onto the road! Who opened the door? Who turned on the ignition? Are car keys not a tool of the future? That vehicle went from an iron shell to a ready for driving machine in 15 seconds.

3.) The Big One: Anderton "kills" someone who was artificially implemented into existence (a faked set up where the man falsely claims to be the kidnapper of his child). Anderton finds this man ONLY through a series of events and through information provided to him by the vision of the precogs. It must be admitted, in an existential sense, without Anderton seeing the vision, the murder could not have happened (a la Macbeth). He would not have known which building to go into, or what room, or certainly would not have been on the run and thereby finding himself in the position to even be in front the building and recognizing the "third man." Therefore the murder with which Anderton was charged, was not fateful -- it was the very opposite. It took an unnatural chain of events to come into being. This unnatural chain of events begins ONLY when the precogs toss their vision up on the screen and it is observed by Anderton. Before Anderton sees the vision and the process of chase begins - there could not be a murder or even the possibility of one. The point is - and it must be agreed - existentially, no vision = no murder. So here is the question - If the murder of this false kidnapper is entirely initiated by the precogs and their vision, and preceding the exposure of Anderton to the vision the murder never would have taken place, THEN what is the source of their vision? They could not see something ahead of time that is entirely based on them seeing something ahead of time. This is my point...I spent much time thinking about how to formulate this and in the end I said screw it and typed this up.

4.) It was a bit strange that Anderton would make his way with such blind determination to the exact place where the murder was predicted to take place. If he was as smart as we are expected to believe, his best bet would be to sit out the 36 hours in some hotel and thereby prove his innocence when the murder was not committed. That move is beyond obvious, but I guess we don't have a movie that way.


From Jeffrey D. Zack:
Hey there, a few comments:

Most of the inconsistencies have been covered, but also:

1) Cruise pays for his new eyes with a credit card? While he's on the run? How dumb is that? And how does an underground surgeon take VISA???

2) Early in the movie Cruise is told "in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is King". Then he's told that if he takes off the bandage before 12 hours, he'll go blind. Speilberg had a perfect chance to tie the two
together when those spider things zap one of Cruise's eyes to ID him. But Cruise didn't go blind at all! What the hell?

3) those car things that went every which direction on the sides of buildings, etc, were cool, but did you notice that despite going upside down and sideways, nobody wore seatbelts? how did they not go tumbling around
inside those things?

4) The movie is called Minority Report because of the short story upon which it is based. In the story, there actually WAS a minority report that said that Anderton didn't do it, and that this was the whole flaw that was
exposed in the system. I guess the title is just an homage to the story then. Along the same vein, I think you criticized Speilberg for having Farrely be such an obvious fake bad guy, while the old man was an obvious
secret bad guy. Except for anyone who read the book...because in the book Farrely's character actually was the one who set up Cruise and the old guy helped him get away. So anyone who read the story would have been shocked.

5) Conspiracy theory: wasn't this just another version of Mission Impossible? Examples: Cruise changes his face, Cruise's mentor/boss is the bad guy that betrays him, Cruise has to somehow break into one of the most
secure buildings in the world, steal the most important thing there, and then get out free and clear, Cruise is trying not get caught by sensors and let's out a bubble of air (reminds me of the drop of sweat in MI), Cruise
has a buzzcut.

6) Ok, ready to blow your mind Matrix style? Precogs predict future murders, but Precrime prevents them. So if they never happen because Precrime always stops them, then how do the precogs see them in first place?
If your answer is that the murders would have happened, but Precrime changes the future, then it makes sense that Agatha would see Anderton murdering Crowe, but later it happens as an accident. Precogs see the future and the future FOR SURE happens, so long as the people involved don't acquire any foresight. But Precrime gets foresight into the murders, and can prevent them. Thus any future murderer (such as Cruise) who gains foresight about the murder, can then change the future by not committing the murder. So for all those Constitutional sticklers out there worried about due process, the best way to implement the system would be to inform people about the future murders, rather than simply arrest them...after that, if the precogs still
see muuuuuuuuuurrrrrder, they can swoop in.

Cheers!

From Elizabeth Perel:
Hi Jordan,
Here's what did not make sense to me:

If Agatha saw John kill Leo Crow, she knew that he did not actually kill him, nor did he want to kill him, and that it was an accident.

Since that is the case, first, why did it "precognitively" come up as a murder image? Considering that the death of Leo Crow was an accident, doesn't that undermine a significant premise of the story????

Second, what does that mean for all those "murders" that were actually accidents? Where is the due process of law? Manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter? I agree that the "life sentence" for the alleged murderers is pretty harsh considering those factors.

From Aron Rattner:


hey Jordy,
I read your review on bangitout, not bad. Of course I am referring to your writing, not the movie. You literary skills have certainly diminished since highschool, but they are not entirely lacking. With regard to that question you posed, I was also troubled with several aspects of the movie. Here goes, in no particular order.

1. What was the prison sentence for murder? I know you had to wear a halo, but for how long? It seems imprudent that the man who kills his wife in the heat of passion (voluntary manslaughter) should receive the same sentence as a serial killer who premeditates his crimes.

2. When Agatha became animated and awoke from her catatonic state, did you experience any déjà vu. She was totally the same character as that chick from the 5th Element.

3. Was the computer hacker really scared that Tom Cruise was going to bust him, considering he was on the run for murder? For a genius, that was pretty dumb.

4. There's subtle foreshadowing, and then there's blatant giveaways to the end of the movie. Spielberg should know the difference. One gently stimulates the senses, and the other is as delicate as being run over by an 18-wheeler. Not that it ruined the movie, but giving that old guy the general's gun. Who in the theater didn't know that he was going to use it, and most certainly on himself. Probably the same person who picked Apollo Creed over Ivan Drago.

5. Why couldn't you just close your eyes to avoid the scanners in the subway? It seemed like everyone looked directly into the scanner.

6. This bothered the hell out of me. It made no sense that Tom Cruise still had access to the 'Temple' once he was on the run. Remember he used his eye in a bag to open the back door. You gotta be kidding me. The temple was the most revered place in DC, and they knew he was trying to get back, why don't they revoke his clearance. Everyone knows the first thing you do is change the locks.

From Shifra G. :
you guys covered almost everything.. i spend the movie noticing which corporations made it to the year 2056 (aka who paid big buck for advertising) lexus, gap, nokia, bvlgari, aquafina....

From Seth Galena:
- How come the obviously Jewish Computer Hacker ('what, I should hit her on the head?') bows to his knees and does a cross sign when seeing Agatha? He totally should have said Baruch Atah..
- Tom Cruise vows he can't kill anyone, and yet every time he runs from the cops, he takes out about 3 city blocks of people?
- What's up with the 80 year old founder of Precrime, kissing Tom Cruise? Is this Eyes Wide Shut all over again?
- Just because it is the future, does it mean cops must wear slut gear? ( bangitout.com slutgear of course)
- How come Agatha wasn't played by Sinead O'Connor?
- How are the precogs not all pruney from being in the water so long?
- There is a striking resemblance of the pool ball telling the future and the magic 8 ball I have at my desk at work
- The rolling ball is such a rip off of the fortune telling machine in the movie, Big
- The Cop's jet packs are such a rip off of GI-JOE
- So based on the last scene does that mean the precogs are faulty?
- Typical reason why it's called minority report: Because there is only one black actor in the entire movie.
- The shady eye doc says he will get revenge on Tom Cruise for putting him in jail for years, and all he does is give him a rotten sandwich? Someone explain.




Reviews by Jordan Hiller

Trembling Before G-d

Girlhood

Veronica Guerin

Pieces of April

Wonderland

Bubba Ho-tep

Casa De Los Babys

Dummy

American Splendor

Gigli

The Holy Land

Return from India

The Shape of Things

City of Ghosts

Anger Management

Levity

The Guys

Assassination Tango

Gaudi Afternoon

Spun

Nowhere in Africa

Foreign Sister

Spider

Relentless

L’chayim, Comrade Stalin
part 1

part 2

Chicago

Divine Intervention

The Pianist

Best films of 2002 1992

8 mile


Punch Drunk Love


Signs


Gaza Strip

The Kid Stays in the Picture

MIB II

Minority Report

Insomnia

Spider-Man

Spring Movie Preview 2002

Panic Room

The Oscar Preview 2002

Royal Tenenbaums

Harry Potter

The Man who Wasn't There

From Hell

Training Day

Hearts in Atlantis

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

the others

Planet of the apes

Jurassic Park III

A.I.

Shrek & Atlantis

The Mummy Returns

Enemy At the Gates

Heartbreakers

Exit Wounds

15 Minutes

You Can Count on Me

The Mexican

Down to Earth

Meet the Parents

EXTRA! THEATER THAT BANGS:
Golda's Balcony HERE

SPECIAL EDITION:
Tribeca FIlm Festival 2003

Daily Coverage: HERE

Photo Gallery HERE


Film Reviews:

A Breach in the Wall

Every Child is Born a Poet: The Life and Work of Piri Thomas

Paper Chasers


Resisting Paradise


MC5: A True Testimonial


Sweet Sixteen


The Shape of Things


Yossi and Jagger


Persona Non Grata


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