(movie review written Summer, 2002)
"Minority Report" is, of course, the famed new effort that joins Steven Spielberg with Tom Cruise. The story is an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick ("Blade Runner") novella that, quite frankly, is a more enjoyable piece of entertainment than Spielberg's last picture, "A.I." However, while much of "Minority Report" is very strong work - emotionally and visually - there are still a few flaws in the picture.
The story is this: it is the year 2054 and a team of 3 "pre cogs" (psychics) are sedated and sitting in a pool in Washington, DC. They see crimes before they happen, allowing the police force to see the images that they see and work to solve the crime from what images they are given. One of the heads of the pre-crime force is Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise), a man who has understandably never recovered from the loss of his son a few years back.
It doesn't take particularly long for the film's main plot to kick in: the pre-cogs, thought to be never wrong, send down another report of a possible crime: unfortunately, the criminal in the vision looks to be Anderton himself, with the victim a man that he's never met. Much of the remainder of the nearly 150 minute picture involves Anderton going on the run to find out if either the pre-cogs are wrong or if someone's somehow set him up.
That's essentially the story, without giving any greater details away. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I'm not completely sold on the picture, but for me, the positives certainly outweighed the negatives. Spielberg's visualization of the future is something incredible to behold and actually, far more enjoyable to be plunked down in than what's presented usually in these kinds of films. The houses in this 2054 often look the same as they do now - however, most of the changes in technology - billboards that scan one's eye to personally sell to them, highways that look like awfully smooth sailing in electronic cars - seem like possibilities.
The film's visual effects (by ILM, I believe) are truly phenomenal, capturing things like the highways with seemingly hundreds of electric cars quite convincingly. Even smaller effects seemed seamless and crisply rendered. The effects are also used appropriately; this is not a film where effects come first and story second. Effects are used masterfully in a sequence where electronic spiders come hunting through an apartment building - one moment that I found particularly amusing was when the little creatures displayed marvelous teamwork - one held up a little flap in the floor while his little co-workers marched along. Longtime Spielberg cinematographer Janusz Kaminski also lends the picture a cold, washed-out appearance that works for the picture.
The performances are generally excellent. Cruise has always been a pretty good actor, but he's started to take a risk here and there and show promise of even stronger efforts down the line. I can imagine other actors that could have worked in this part - Brad Pitt would have been good; even co-star Colin Farrell might have worked, but Cruise certainly gives a very effective performance. Farrell (as a Government agent checking up on the pre-crime system), Max von Sydow (as head of the department) and others also offer fine support. The film's screenplay (by Jon Cohen and Scott Frank) is also superb, with several thought-provoking twists and turns.
Yet, there is a point where "Minority Report" could have maybe stopped and doesn't. This isn't as big of a concern as the one that I had with "A.I.", where the film seemed to come to a perfectly acceptable ending and then went on for a pretty unnecessary 30 extra minutes, but it still stands out. "Minority Report" works very well as is, but the last chunk of the picture doesn't seem quite as fresh a take on the noir/thriller genre that the first 105-or-so minutes of the picture did.
Still, pretty minor concerns about what is otherwise an excellent, intelligent, creative and often visually fascinating picture that's easily the best combination of ideas and thrills that one will likely find all Summer (and maybe all year, too).
VIDEO: "Minority Report" is presented by Dreamworks in 2.39:1. Before anyone says, "something's wrong with my DVD", "Minority Report" is supposed to look the way it does here. The film's cinematography (by frequent Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski) offers a bleak, cold appearance with a general steel blue tone (the bleach bypass process was used to give the film its look). Sharpness and detail looked superb throughout the film, with solid detail usually apparent.
Although there are some concerns apparent with the image, they are part of the film's intended appearance. Noticable grain is often apparent throughout the presentation, with some scenes displaying only a light amount and some displaying considerably more. Still, the DVD seemed slightly less grainy than I remember the film looking theatrically. Edge enhancement is not present, nor are any artifacts. Aside from the presence of quite a bit of intentional grain, the print seemed in excellent condition, with no noticable specks or marks.
In terms of colors, the film offers an extremely desaturated palette that mostly just consists of blue. Although there are some warmer colors on occasion, those instances are fairly rare. Black level remained quite solid, while flesh tones were unnatural (although, once again, due to the intended look of the movie).
SOUND: "Minority Report" is presented in both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. This is also a soundtrack designed by Gary Rydstrom ("Saving Private Ryan", "Toy Story", "Star Wars Ep. 1 & 2") and a very highly regarded sound team. Although not always fierce, the sound design is often quite aggressive, with the John Williams score masterfully mixed throughout the listening space.
Surrounds are quite lively throughout the picture, especially during the action scenes (there's a whole lot going on during the chase at the car factory). Still, even during the quieter moments, there's quite a bit of nice ambience in the surrounds, as well as some more subtle sound effects. Those who can enable back surround use will find that it adds to the enjoyment, especially in the film's major action scenes.
Audio quality was terrific, as dialogue remained crisp and clear, the score sounded powerful and lively, while effects remained strong and bold. Deep bass is also present during many scenes. Both the DTS and Dolby soundtracks provided a rich and entertaining experience, but the DTS soundtrack provided a noticably more vivid and enjoyable presentation, as the soundtrack seemed more detailed and seamless, while it also provided greater clarity and stronger bass.
EXTRAS: While director Steven Spielberg still continues to not record commentaries, the second disc of this 2-DVD set provides plenty of supplements that cover the production from development to completion. The featurettes are split into several sections, and are listed below.
The Story/The Debate: This is a very nice way to open the supplements area. It provides a good general overview of the development period for the project, as Spielberg, Cruise, screenwriter Scott Frank and others discuss trying to bring the project together and basic thoughts on the concepts for the look and ideas of the film. The feature runs about ten minutes.
The Players: A ten minute featurette that generally goes through the actors and their characters. Nothing too necessary to view.
The World Of Minority Report: This is a ten minute piece that is one of the more fascinating included on the second disc. In preparation for the film, Spielberg brought together some of the most remarkable minds in several arenas to help him to visualize and come up with concepts for the look of the film. Aside from Spielberg, we also hear from production designer Alex McDowell, composer John Williams and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.
The Spyder Sequence: Production designer McDowell, sound designer Gary Rydstrom and visual effects supervisor Henry Labounta are interviewed in this piece and talk about one of the more fascinating sequences of the movie. Early visual effects concepts and other elements are also shown.
Precrime and Precogs: Spielberg, production designer McDowell and others discuss the visualization of the precogs and the set.
Precog Visions: Spielberg, Cruise and others discuss creating the unusual look of the precog visions. It's fascinating to hear the discussion of Spielberg's ideas for the visualization, such as how he wanted the images on Anderton's computer screen to be conducted by hand.
Vehicles of the Future: This short featurette discusses the pre-visualization of the handful of futuristic vehicle sequences in the film. We hear from director Spielberg, the vehicle designer, sound designer Gary Rydstrom (who is entirely fascinating in interviews, as where he finds sound effects is always unexpected and entertaining) and others.
Stunts: Three short featurettes on the stunts ("The Mag-Lev Escape", "Hoverpack Chase" and "Car Factory") are offered, each lasting a couple of minutes.
ILM and Minority Report: In an era where George Lucas is essentially creating worlds around actors for the "Star Wars" series, there is certainly a debate about how much is too much when it comes to using special effects. "Minority Report", in my opinion, is an excellent blending of the real and the computer-generated, with terrific work by ILM. This section starts off with an introduction by Tom Cruise, who discusses what it's like to act against nothing that will be something later. The remainder of the section consistents of a series of short featurettes focusing on various elements of ILM's work on the film: "Holograms", "Hall of Containment", "Mag-Lev", "Hovercraft", "Cyberparlor".
Final Report: This is a short closing featurette, where Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg discuss their experiences working together on "Minority Report". It's all "happy talk", but it's sincere "happy talk" and an enjoyable way to close out the supplements.
Archives: This section consists of: production concepts (a very large gallery that's easy to navigate), storyboard sequences, trailers (three trailers for the movie in Dolby Digital 5.1 and one for the very disapointing video game version), cast/filmmaker bios and production notes.
Final Thoughts: "Minority Report" is a thought-provoking, exciting thriller that provides impressive visuals and excellent performances. Dreamworks has also provided a superb DVD edition, with great audio/video quality and a fine amount of informative supplements. Highly recommended.