Director:  Steven Spielberg

Starring:  Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Max Von Sydow

Washington, 2054: A policeman finds himself framed for a murder he has yet to commit.

Minority Report is set in Washington, in 2054, where the crime of murder has been virtually eradicated, thanks to the Precrime project. The police have harnessed three supernaturally-gifted humans, the pre-cognitives ("pre-cogs"), who are able to predict crimes where traumatic violence will be used. Now potential murderers are arrested and convicted before they are able to harm their intended victims. Of course, this raises some important moral and ethical questions (not to mention the paradoxes that their intervention might cause!) 

Leading the project's lengthy trial period is Director Lamar Burgess (Von Sydow), grooming his protégée, Detective John Anderton (Cruise), to take charge as the pilot is rolled out to the rest of the country. Anderton is a flawed character, however, addicted to the illegal drugs he uses to obliterate the loss and guilt he feels for his child, who was abducted in a moment of inattentiveness. The Precrime operation is not without its detractors, however, and the Attorney General has appointed a determined young investigator, Detective Danny Witwer (Farrell). who seems to instinctively sense Anderton's weakness, and the fundamental flaws in the system that have, until now, been kept hidden. On the eve of a crucial public vote on the Precrime plan Anderton is confronted with a pre-cog vision which shows him killing a man he has never heard of, forcing him to flee from Witwer and his former colleagues in a desperate attempt to clear his name.

Steven Spielberg has brought us a prediction of the future before, (in 2001's remarkable A.I. - Artificial Intelligence), but that was just a hint of the startling, bleak vision of 2054 he offers in Minority Report. Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick (the author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the book that was adapted on film as Blade Runner), and co-written by Scott Frank (scriptwriter of Steven Soderbergh's terrific pulp thriller Out of Sight), the film has an impressive pedigree. Every department excels: the rousing score is by Spielberg's regular collaborator John Williams; the film's stark, edgy cinematography is by another Spielberg veteran, Janusz Kaminski, and the knockout special effects were supervised by Michael Lantieri, who was responsible for effects in Jurassic Park, A.I. - Artificial Intelligence, The Sixth Day and Mars Attacks!

Spielberg has populated his film with some heavyweight acting talent, too, coaxing more from Cruise than you'd expect, and drawing a typically powerful performance from Samantha Morton, (who plays the key pre-cognitive, Agatha). There are also memorable roles for Colin Farrell (bold and aggressive, as the film's token villain) and for Max Von Sydow, who gives his role as head of the Precrime project a paternal spin.

The film effortlessly combines two quite distinct genres. This isn't a film like Outland, whose science-fiction setting was almost completely incidental to the western-like plot. It's closest relation would be Blade Runner, but Spielberg's version of the future is as distinctive as anything Ridley Scott devised for that film, or Alien, for that matter. Spielberg's Washington offers a stark contrast between a steely, clinical, technology-infused environment, with the grotty slum areas known as "the sprawl". In the more affluent districts every spare square foot is employed by advertisers (given the genre's patchy record at predicting the success of commercial brands, it's a little surprising to see companies and products like Gap, Burger King and Guinness are apparently still thriving, and ubiquitous. In the city's underbelly, the tones are predominantly earthy, and grime is the only constant.

Let's try and quell any doubts here: Minority Report has been given an exceptional transfer to disc, which accurately captures the grit, graininess and harsh contrasts of the film, exactly as it appeared in cinemas. The film was shot on the Super 35 format, and printed using the bleach-bypass system (the process popularised by David Fincher, who used it for Se7en). There are scenes where grain is very noticeable, or where the image becomes so de-saturated as to almost appear black and white, or where foreground objects are so quickly swallowed up into pools of darkness that you'd think the film was lit by candle-light. That's how it's meant to look. The disc is presented in 2.35:1 ratio, with anamorphic enhancement. The average bitrate is 6.44mbps.

There are no problems with the audio, either. There are two 5.1 mixes on offer, a Dolby Digital mix (at 448kbps), and a DTS mix (at 768kbps). Both versions offers a rich audio mix that will completely immerse the viewer, but the DTS track has the edge, offering superior ambience and more pronounced separation. There are several outstanding sequences, including a chase through a car factory, and plenty of scenes that will give subwoofers a good rattle!.

All the extras have been placed on the second disc (as usual with a Spielberg film, there's no commentary track). The supplements have been grouped into six sections, and within each section there are several short featurettes. Navigating through them is a bit of a trial, since each one must be accessed separately (there's no "Play All") option. This isn't too irksome when the featurettes are about ten minutes long (in the From Story To Screen section, for example), but when each segment is about three minutes long (The Stunts of Minority Report and the ILM and Minority Report sections) your concentration and the mood are continually broken.

The six main sections are:

FROM STORY TO SCREEN  [Total duration: 18m]

This section is divided into two segments: The Story / The Debate (looking at the moral implications of the Precrime premise, and explaining the basic framework of the film, and the filmmaker's approach to the material) and The Players (short interviews and profiles of the main supporting characters, and an exploration of the relationships between them).


A comprehensive guide to the film, divided into The World of Minority Report [An Introduction]; Precrime and Precogs (featuring the stunning work of Production Designer Alex McDowell, focusing on the film's elaborate tech and architecture); The Spyder Sequence (which not only examines the creation of the little robot spiders that who are dispatched to hunt John Anderton, but also the complex camera setup used to track them through the tenement building); Precog Visions (the work of titles company Imaginary Forces, who created the elliptical visions experienced by the three precognitives); and Vehicles [of the Future], a look at the mag-lev (magnetic-levitation) cars, and the police's flying troop carrier.


A brief look at three key sequences from the film: The Mag-Lev Escape, The Hoverpack Chase and The Car Factory, mainly showing how the film's actors worked on their own stunts.

ILM AND MINORITY REPORT  [Total duration: 19m] 

A slew of short featurettes on various different effects sequences: Intro', Holograms, Hall of Containment, Mag-Lev, Hovercraft / Hoverpacks and Cyberparlor (sic). This section is quite fascinating, but rather skimpy. There also seems to have been little effort to explain to the layman how things were actually put together, perhaps overestimating the audience's level of knowledge. 


A summary from the film's director and leading man.


Tucked away at the end is the gateway to a cornucopia of material: Production Concepts (a huge gallery of production sketches and photo's), animated Storyboard Sequences (for the Mag-Lev Sequence, the Alley Chase and the Car Factory, synchronised with audio from the film), three theatrical Trailers and an advert for the Activision computer game based on the movie, text profiles of the cast members, leading crew members and substantial production notes.

With so much material on offer, it seems a little curmudgeonly to want more. What's here will surely satisfy most casual viewers, but the bonus material on offer is largely superficial, (it's not fluffy promotional stuff, but most of it is focused on the technical side, and fails to get to the backbone of the movie). Fans of the film might feel short-changed: for example, there are no deleted scenes, which is an odd omission for a film this complex. The disc sorely needed a commentary track or two, to lay the foundations for all the bonus material. If Spielberg is reluctant to communicate personally, there are many other voices who could tell the story. Perhaps he feels that his films speak for him, but viewers might get the impression that he's a control freak who won't allow his team members their moment in the spotlight.

Minority Report is unarguably one of the best science fiction movies made in the last couple of decades, and a very mature offering from a director often accused of sweetness and sentimentality (the factors that soured A.I. - Artificial Intelligence for many viewers). The film is a an all too believable vision of the future, brought to the screen by some extremely talented artisans. Fox's disc version is fabulous, and almost - almost - does justice to a wholly remarkable film.












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