Sci-fi spectacular

Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise team up for a science fiction classic in Minority Report.

Much to his dismay, Tom Cruise had to grow a second head for his latest film.

Much to his dismay, Tom Cruise had to grow a second head for his latest film.

Rated 5.0

The much anticipated pairing of Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise doesn’t disappoint with Minority Report, a provocative, incredible-looking piece of science fiction from a great director and a fine actor.

Set in the year 2054, Cruise (in yet another great performance) plays John Anderton, a detective for Precrime, a division of law enforcement with the ability to arrest people for murder before they kill. They are able to do this with the help of three Pre-Cogs, humans with the ability to dream of future murders.

The Pre-Cogs are a creepy creation: shaved humans floating like embryos in an amniotic-type liquid, their brains being scanned by computers to videotape their visions. When they dream, the names of the killers and their victims are scorched into wooden balls, which starts the process of locating and ascertaining the criminal. Anderton is able to access and scrutinize the Pre-Cogs’ visions through a computer display that he manipulates with the motion of his hands. Watching Cruise sift through video data like a conductor leading an orchestra is great fun, not to mention an incredible product of movie magic.

Anderton, who lost his young son to unexplained circumstances, is a diehard disciple of Precrime. Under the guidance of Director Burgess (Max von Sydow), he eats and breathes his job, resorting to drug use to “provide clarity” and getting antagonistic when an envoy for the U.S. District Attorney (Colin Farrell) shows up to scrutinize the project.

Something bad happens that you probably already know, but I see no need to reveal the secret here for the benefit of readers in the dark. I will tell you that the film is an ingenious, multi-layered whodunit, and while some of the criminal perpetrators are obvious, Spielberg and company keep you guessing for the most part.

At the center of the mystery is the question of a man’s ability to control his destiny, and it is presented in mind-bending fashion with what will stand as some of the year’s best visual effects and cinematography. Spielberg’s cameraman of choice, Janusz Kaminski (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan), gives us a sterilized, washed-out future that gives this film a look like no other science fiction movie.

While the film’s mystery elements are indeed superior, it is the sheer futuristic vision of Minority Report that makes it a science fiction classic. The future is a place where marketing has gone beyond intrusive telephone calls; citizens can’t walk down a public passage or into a department store without having their eye scanned, prompting advertisements and video-recorded clerks to address them personally.

In the future, you can still buy a Lexus, but you cannot control your destiny in the vehicle, as roadways are now programmed tracks where the authorities can pull you over without your concession. The film is set in Washington, D.C., where the structures we are familiar with are mixed in with labyrinthine roadway tracks (the cars actually drive up the sides of buildings). This provides the setting for an astonishing sequence where Cruise hops from one car to another as they descend a skyscraper.

All of the payoffs are satisfying, and the questions the film poses will toy with your mind in the days after viewing. The summer season, with the exception of Insomnia, has done little to stimulate the mind, so this represents a nice change of pace.

Minority Report stands as a nice companion piece to AI: Artificial Intelligence, a movie that I insist will be appreciated as a classic in the future. With these films, Spielberg has created ominous, unsettling visions of the future that further establish him as the true current master of the genre.