Sat June 29, 2002
In this mixed bag of tricks are a couple of scenes truly worthy of Spielberg’s brilliance...
By John DeSando, WCBE’s “It’s Movie Time”
Spielberg, Cruise, Philip C. Dick—director, star, creator. This is a heavenly group promising that the mediocre fare of this summer will be redeemed by a sci-fi thriller about an agency making arrests before crimes are committed.
The intriguing premise, based on precognition theory crossed with some Sybil-like prediction powers by three “Precogs” from a Dick short story, is not given its potential in at least half the film. The setup is stylistically attractive, a hybrid of the digital inventiveness of “The Matrix,” “A.I.,” and the coldness of Dick’s “Blade Runner.” Cruise coordinates data about potential crimes on a giant screen like a symphony conductor in charge of a NASA launching. Visually Spielberg has the eerie futuristic world down right, even to the Orson-Welles-like lighting and classical and pop music punctuations.
Then the cliches roll in like a thunderstorm, ruining the promising premise with predictable scenarios—Cruise is setup to be an object of his own Pre-Crime Division, a friend turns out to be an enemy, the bad guy is not bad, the race is on, etc. The climax and plot twist could have been seen all the way from the next solar system, and Max Von Sydow should seriously reconsider accepting parts that fulfill expectations from his previous roles.
In this mixed bag of tricks are a couple of scenes truly worthy of Spielberg’s brilliance, one when Cruise visits the elderly creator of precognition crime detection (Lois Smith of “The Pledge” and “Five Easy Pieces”). The strange garden she has created with its almost human plants well reflects the strange and dangerous world her creation has engendered.
Cruise had a much more complex character in “Vanilla Sky,” demanding you pay close attention to details if you wished to make sense out of his troubled character’s search for identity. In “Minority Report” plot and special effects rule. If star and director wish to cash in on this film, they ought to look with dread at other summer films like “Bourne Identity” and “Sum of All Fears,” which are not likely to generate enough cash for future more artful films.
Hey, it’s summer—lighten up and enjoy what’s good about a dark formula sci-fi film with an impressive pedigree. I had fun being disappointed, and I predict you will too.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE’s “It’s Movie Time” and vice-chairs the board of The Film Council of Greater Columbus.