In the year 2054, a man in a prosperous suburb of Washington, D.C., is about to murder his wife and the man with whom she is having an affair.
Before he can carry out the deed, burly, ominous-looking officers break through the bedroom’s glass ceiling and arrest him for the “future murder” of the two.
Welcome to extreme crime prevention, the basis for Steven Spielberg’s provocative sci-fi thriller “Minority Report” (rated PG-13).
The hit film is based on a short story by visionary writer Philip K. Dick, who wrote “Blade Runner” and “Total Recall.”
Washington, D.C., denizens no longer have to worry that a murderer is lurking about. Police are able to utilize a psychic technology in the form of pre-cogs, or three psychic humans — the result of a genetic experiment — who can predict what crime will happen and who will do it.
The three (named Agatha, Daschell and Arthur), float all day in a eerie, glowing pool. Their visions are transmitted onto wafer-thin computer screens that require interaction with the detective, who pulls up the vision with the help of wired gloves.
As Cruise — who plays Detective John Anderton — does his sleuthing to find out exactly where the murderer is, he resembles a conductor. The scenes are something to behold.
Now 6 years old, the Pre-Crime unit has had spectacular success, as the pre-cogs are “never wrong … but they sometimes disagree,” as one character says.
Anderton firmly believes in Pre-Crime with all his heart and soul, despite the snipings of a Justice Department bureaucrat, Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell), who is interfering far too much.
The program, under the direction of the stately Lamar Burgess (Max Von Sydow) is about to go national, when something goes haywire.
The pre-cogs predict that Anderton — haunted by his young son’s disappearance and now battling a drug habit — will kill a man he has never met in 36 hours.
Anderton happens to be in the Pre-Crime office when the word comes out — and the chase begins.
To exonerate himself, Anderton must flee his colleagues through the not-so-glamorous parts of D.C. and find out why he is being framed.
When pre-cogs “sometimes disagree,” their thoughts are part of a Minority Report, which the system’s creator, Dr. Iris Hineman (Lois Smith), urges him to find.
Anderton also seeks out pre-cog Agatha (Samantha Morton), considered the most gifted of the three. Together, the two take a journey — with help from Anderton’s ex-wife Lara (Kathryn Morris) — that will change their lives forever.
When you get down to it, “Minority Report” is a typical thriller, but, with so many twists and turns, it’s definitely worth the ticket price and almost three hours of the viewers’ time.
Spielberg, with the help of stunning visuals, creates a future world we believe in, from mag-lev cars that transport people to wretchedly-hip dwellings to disturbing mechanical spiders, which seem almost human in their intuition, as they scan a people’s retinas to determine their identities.
“Minority Report” also tackles serious issues of law and order — can there be a perfect justice system? — and shows just how far the Information Age may go: As people walk along D.C., personalized commercials crawl up walls and newspapers “update” articles right on the page.
And yet society looks and basically acts just as it does today.
The muted, icy feel of the cinematography also puts a viewer on edge right from the start.
With every scene, Spielberg — coming off his noble failure “A.I.” — shows us why is he is the Great American Director.
A good film doesn’t work without the actors. Cruise, always a better actor when playing flawed men, is quite good here. He tones down that trademark cockiness and makes us feel for a person who, despite all his triumphs, is broken inside.
He is matched by Farell, the Irish “hunk” who puts just the right amount of spark into what could have been a very cliched character.
The elegant and legendary Swedish actor Von Sydow is fine here, but he seems just a little strapped in his role.
It is Morton — a British actress nominated for an Academy Award for 1999’s “Sweet And Low Down” — who is the emotional center here. She plays Agatha — whose own past is filled with horror — with an extraterrestrial grace.