Minority Report - 2-Disc Set Blu-ray Review
You can't dispute an image on Blu-ray that has been approved by the DOP, in this case the renowned Janusz Kaminski, and the director, himself. And the fact that Spielberg and Paramount have even gone as far as to create a whole new 4K transfer speaks volumes about the care and attention that has been lavished on this Blu-ray. Spielberg has admitted to not exactly being the most embracing when it has come to new formats - until now, that is. Minority Report, whether you like the bleach-bypass process and grainy neo-noir silver-enhanced shimmer that it sports or not, is probably as faultless a transfer as has been intended for 1080p scrutiny. Quite simply, this is a stunning image. But, as is the nature of this curiously personal aesthetic, there are going to be those who still won't take to it because it has been stylised in such a way - remember 300? - and yet this version is not quite the same as the one you've seen before ... which, of course, only leads to more trouble for those purists out there.
The once stark 2.40:1 image is now a little more vibrant than it once was. Greens, blues and reds now have more vigour - the leaves in the trees, the eyes of Cruise and Morton, the smear of blood across Farrell's cheek - but the skin-tones are still that blown-out, ghostly shimmer. The flashback to the pool scene is bright and colourful, though it should be noted that Cruise still looks incredibly white compared to everybody else.
Grain has now been re-manipulated by Kaminski, who apparently revelled in the ability to do so when he came in to help prepare this transfer. Even he couldn't believe the level of detail that the print offered. Grain does fluctuate, but we can only assume that he and Spielberg knew exactly what they were doing. Some shots positively fizz with the stuff, but the texture that this adds to the picture - especially when you remember the type of films that Minority Report seeks to emulate and the era in which they were produced - is extraordinary. This is almost as though John Huston and Alfred Hitchcock, in their earliest productions, had sneaked some vague metallic paints onto their film prints to give some subtle radiance to emotional elements. Not quite black and white, then, but very far from colour, as well. Contrast is excellent - 'nuff said. Blacks are phenomenal and produce shadow-play of unquestionable integrity. The greys, silvers and blues establish a consistently cool and sterile appeal. No crush or gradation lapse between these gleaming hues is ever evident.
Detail is incredible. Of course there are times when the gleam 'n' grit texture seems to glitch out and dazzle things, but the image here is often astounding in its levels of finite detail. Equipment, vehicles, city-scapes and crowded plazas all reveal extensively more than you have seen before. Clothing, building and locational detail, such as brickwork, gardens and trees are fantastically vivid, but the most revelatory aspect is in the close-ups of faces and those pivotal eyes. Yep, skin-pores and those little veins in the pupils are all opened-up (quite literally in one squirming sequence) for scrutiny. But look at the texture on the wooden balls and on the masonry leading to the greenhouse. Depth is great, though not profound. This is not the seamless background of endless three-dimensional acreage that we saw in I, Robot, for instance, or in Knowing. Spielberg is going for a flatter, more direct approach. It is almost as though he wants the imagery so forefront that it climbs behind our eyes, rather than to stretch out away from them. But, be that as it may, the picture is still robust and deep where it counts.
A couple moments during scenes featuring massively hot whites as backdrops seem to suggest some edge enhancement on foreground figures, but this is surely not the case - merely a product of the incredible contrast taking place. There are reports of a slight haloing top and bottom of the image, around the letterboxing, but this is absolutely minute and certainly nothing that could ever detract from this outstanding transfer. Other anomalies, such as artifacting, banding, smearing or shimmer, are nowhere to be seen. And as far as noise reduction is concerned - you're having a laugh, aren't you - I would say that the opposite seems to have been applied.
So, to sum up then. Minority Report still has an audience-dividing visual sheen that blows out whites, deepens blacks and loves blues. It is festooned with grain, yet detail and depth are absolutely paramount. But the transfer has been manipulated - though since this was done with the strict supervision and participation of the original DOP and the director, himself, you cannot possibly mark this picture down in any category. Therefore, I am quite happy to report that Minority Report earns itself a proud 10 out of 10. But, as with 300 and any other artistically styled image that has a definite texture and look intended, many will still find much to complain to about. I'm not overly fussed on this bleached-out, high-sheen style ... but it is exactly the image that we are meant to see.
And if the benchmark accuracy of the image wasn't enough, we get incredible reference quality audio as well. Truly, folks, opinions on the film and its visual design may be divided, but none could possibly quibble about the outstanding class of the DTS-HD MA track on offer here. This is what format demands from films that have the appropriate sound design in mind - totally convincing and ever-present immersion. The hi-tech sounds of the future city - bubble cars thrumming about on their gravitational freeways, sonic guns bouncing sound-waves across the environment, jet-packs roaring around and mollusc-shaped hovercraft streaming overhead - are perfectly realised without ever seeming to go overboard. High ends glisten as much as the image and the full speaker set-up is extensively employed.
Dialogue, needless for me to say, is always marvellously mixed, no matter what the surrounding ambience throws around it. But then, this is a dialogue movie despite the setting and the action quotient. Surround activity, as you would hope for, and quite justifiably expect, is plentiful and rewarding. Score bleed is carried over to the rears, effects are steered all around left to right, front to back etc, ambience is frequently picked up. The jet-pack skirmish is rife with burn-outs, whizzing-about and impacts. Even the rattle of crockery as a kitchen table is bumped from below by an errant John Anderton coming up through the floors. The car-factory likewise provides a full array of activity.
But it is the believability factor that Minority Report achieves that marks it out as being something that little bit special in a genre that regularly supplies wham-bang-wraparound fun.The drop beneath the surface of the public pool is convincing, as is the sudden return to the busy, hubbub and splashing-filled surface. A rainstorm and thunder - that perennial favourite tester for any sound mix - is worked across the soundfield supremely well, and the subtlety of a tiny bubble escaping from Anderton's nose as he hides from the Spyders is captured with minute precision. Of course, the little skittering legs of the Spyders, themselves, are wondrously unnerving with their swift and microscopic clatter all around the speakers. The sparking and sizzling of the robot car-builders is equally as tight and crisp and directional. Other nice effects would have to include the rolling of the victim and perpetrator balls down the tube, and the dizzying aural accompaniment to the clue gathering from the images on the virtual analysis panel. All crystal-clear and authentic.
Deep bass is great, too, although this is a film that tends more to exploit long, throbbing pulses than emphatic, gut-shocking explosions and heavier impacts, such as body blows, gunshots and the odd crashing through a window, as precise and credible as they are, blend in with the authenticity of the overall mix, as opposed to overpowering it as most action movies would tend to do. As such, there is a level of discernible “control” over the audio that you always get with films from Spielberg and Lucas, too. To this end, the score from Williams is impeccably balanced as well. Orchestration is finite, separation sublime. It is not a warm score in the composer's customary style, by any means, but the sweep is broad, the action exhilarating and the beautiful themes for Sean and Lara and the wordless female vocals for Agatha and the pre-cogs often scintillating.
Excellent stuff from Paramount, folks ... and a 9 ½ from me.
There's a lot of material to get your teeth into this 2-disc presentation, although with the main feature dominating the first platter, all the special features are to be found over on the second one.
Spielberg still doesn't provide us with a commentary, but we do get a 34-minute interactive interview with the filmmaker in The Future According to Steven Spielberg , which has been edited and re-ordered for this Blu-ray release from a session he gave on the eve of the film's premier. Forthright and engaging, the interview is broken down into a plethora of topics and further dissected and detailed with a U-Control style selection of further featurettes on everything from Dick's writing, the casting of Cruise, the filming techniques, the visual FX and the stunts, to the props, the ethics and the morality of the issues that the story raises, with behind-the-scenes and on-set footage, concept art and extensive further interviews. Excellent.
Right, folks, I'm not going to waffle on endlessly about all the individual featurettes on the film's look, its story, its adaptation from Dick's short tale, the visual effects breakdowns, the science and technology that Spielberg and ILM employed and the stunts and conceptual artwork that provided the foundation for the future world and the society that inhabits it because it would get boring and repetitious. But the fact is that whilst there is some inevitable overlap and repetition throughout the smorgasbord of special features, this is about as comprehensive a set of extras that you could wish for, barring that ever-elusive chat-track from the 'Berg. The film is deconstructed in terms of theme, context, visuals and design and genuine adherence to credibility and a convincing look at future-tech and sensibility is rammed-home by all participants.
You get storyboards and pre-viz material. There's a nifty promotional fake EPK for Pre-Crime and what it can do for you, that takes you, the concerned citizen, behind the scenes at the project's HQ. There is also plenty of extensive coverage of the film's key action sequences - notably the jet-pack chase, the car factory and the Spyders. It is a great selection, of course, with the majority of these featurettes running between five and ten minutes. Menus are fine and this US region A double-disc release comes in a great holographic slip-case.
A great package all round.
Less fundamentally flawed as War Of The Worlds and much more inventive, Minority Report acts as a marvellous companion-piece to the Cruise-Berg's second collaboration, firmly entrenching the double-act as a force to be reckoned with in an over-stuffed genre. Cruise is on top form, serious and committed, that smile utterly swiped from his mush and his performance as emotional as it is adrenal. Those around him provide exceptional support, and the movie, from visual style and fx, through its labyrinthine screenplay, to the cold and relentless score from John Williams has class and intelligence in abundance. Spielberg put a lot of thought into this, and it shows. Only a rather contrived and, perhaps, corny final coda strikes the wrong note.
But the film's long-awaited debut on Blu-ray is a real cause for celebration. A magnificent transfer finds Minority Report sitting proud in Paramount's top echelon of similarly glowing releases and it also reveals a terrific affinity between Spielberg and the format, which can only be seen as a big step in the right direction. With War Of The Worlds just around the corner on Blu, things are definitely looking up. And remember, we've still got Jaws, Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones to come along.
Whilst there is still no yak-track from the director, this double-disc presentation doesn't skimp on extras. Some repetition of material and the brief running times of some of the more meaty topics make the whole thing feel a tad too crammed, but this is solid stuff that certainly enjoys exploring the making of the movie and the emotive themes that it carries.
One of the best releases this year so far of a modern film, Paramount's Minority Report should be at the top of any wish-list. And you didn't need a pre-cog to tell you that!
Very highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.59
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