Stevie, phone home
Spielberg’s acclaimed adaptation of P. K. Dick story suffers from recurring flaw
I’ve never actually sat down and read any of Philip K. Dick’s speculative fiction, but gauging by the look and feel of the films based on his work (Blade Runner, Total Recall, Imposter and now Minority Report), the man had an extremely distinctive view of what the future would look like.
After Ridley Scott’s touchstone envisioning of Dick’s universe, every filmmaker who has adapted his work since has felt an obligation to use Scott’s palette as a template, and Steven Spielberg’s turn is no exception.
In the short time between pre-production and the film’s actually hitting the screen, the near-future world of Minority Report packs a resonance that couldn’t have been foretold, but fortuitously for the project it hits a little too close to home(land) to be comfortable.
Set in the Washington, D.C. of 2054, it centers on John Anderton (Tom Cruise), who leads a squadron of preventive dicks in the Precrime Unit, an experimental task force that busts potential murderers before they have a chance to actually commit the crime. The success of the force hinges on the dreams of the Pre-cogs, a trio of genetic flukes that floats about in a secluded pool, isolated from the rest of humanity, as computers leach out their visions of homicides-to-be. The project is a wild success, cutting the bloodshed on the mean streets of D.C. in the few short years that the effort has been in effect.
Anderton is a hundred percent behind the project that he feels is infallible—until, that is, his own name comes up as the next pre-destined murderer, of a man he doesn’t even know. Faster than you can say Alfred Hitchcock, Anderton is off and running from his own troops as he tries to find the person who he believes has set him up.
Although Minority Report is actually a fairly entertaining “will-he-do-it?,” it frustratingly falls victim to Spielberg’s predestined tendency to shoot himself in the foot. Minority Report runs at least 20 minutes past what would have been a perfect ending, giving Spielberg time to reiterate the implausibilities of the plot and spit-polish them into outright absurdities. As shown by Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, the man has a tendency to create a potentially brilliant movie and then succumb to some innate need to heap on the treacle in order to make his heady concoction user-friendlier. It makes good business sense, but it doesn’t make for good film.