If someone is arrested before they commit a murder, can they really be tried for a crime that will now never take place? This is the dilemma at the heart of Steven Spielberg's thought-provoking movie Minority Report.
In the year 2054, a 'Precrime Division' using three genetically altered humans (Precogs) to predict and prevent murders is operating in Washington DC John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is one of Precrime's best, a man driven to protect the innocent by the loss of his son several years earlier. When Anderton himself is identified as the future murderer of a man he's never heard of, he is forced to go on the run and question his own belief in what he thought was an infallible system.
After the abominable, manipulative A.I., Minority Report is big step in the right direction for Steven Spielberg. For the first two thirds of its running time, there's a sneaking suspicion that this really could be the director's best work to date. Loaded with familiar tropes from Hollywood film noir, Spielberg initially looks set to craft a harrowing portrait of a tormented man trapped in a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies, from which he cannot escape. However, at precisely the moment the film should end, it instead offers Anderton a ridiculous back door out of the situation, introducing a hackneyed villain whose motives prove less than convincing.
Still, if Minority Report falters in its final footsteps, the build-up is exceptional, and the fact that somebody is still trying to tell serious stories in the sci-fi genre (as opposed to overwhelming viewers with spectacle a la Attack of the Clones) is utterly refreshing. In the end Spielberg's film may not be perfect, but it is ambitious and effective, and will undoubtedly become one of his more celebrated movies in the years to come.
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