Minority Report

Minority ReportRated PG-13
Running Time: 145 minutes
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay rewritten by Scott Frank from Jon Cohen’s original adaptation.
Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick.


In my review of Spielberg’s last film, A.I., I made some snide comments and wished him “better luck next time”. I didn’t think that Spielberg had the right sensibility to pull off a dark science-fiction piece. However, this time around, he’s done his homework, and it’s paid off with a film that is the best science fiction we’ve seen on screen since The Matrix.

The key to Minority Report’s success was Spielberg’s choice of source material. What better writer to turn to if you want to make a dark sci-fi film than the man whose novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, was adapted by Ridley Scott into the sci-fi classic, Bladerunner, and whose short story, “We Can Get It For You Wholesale”, was made into the Arnold Schwarzeneggar blockbuster, Total Recall? For existentialist, mind-provoking science fiction, Phillip K. Dick is the man! Even as I write this, Dick’s books and short stories are being riffled through by studio executives and plans are in the works for yet more adaptations. It’s a pity that Dick will never see any of them. He died in 1982, just a few months before Bladerunner was released. But his legacy lives on…

Not all the credit can go to Dick, however. It’s not easy to adapt a 31 page shortstory into a 110-120 page long script. Jon Cohen and Scott Frank have done an excellent job. I can now partially forgive Frank for taking part in the film adaptation of James Lee Burke’s Heaven’s Prisoners (For those who didn’t see it, the film sucked.). Minority Report, however, is a definite feather in his cap. Good work!


The year is 2054. Ten years before, a synthetic drug caused a few pregnant mothers to have brain damaged children with a kind of idiot savant talent for predicting the future…but only the ability to predict murders. These children would lay in their beds at night, screaming, as they saw murders that would happen a few hours later. Police Director Burgess (Max von Sydow) saw the possibility in these children, however, and founded a new crime task force around the talents of the three most gifted precogniscents (a.k.a.: Pre-Cogs). He called this task force the Precrime System. Within the span of a single year, they effectively eliminated murder in the D.C. area by arresting the perpetrators before anything could happen. This unit has been functioning for 6 years and is poised to receive Federal Funding that would take the system nationwide.

John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is Chief of the Department of Pre-Crime. Each morning, he goes to work and scans through the electronically collected visions of the three Pre-Cogs (who are kept floating in a liquid medium with a few hundred microsensors attached to their shaved skulls). The images are often jumbled and he must work quickly, doing what is called “scrubbing the image” to pinpoint key images that will enable him and his crack team of commandos to arrive at a future murder site and stop the attacker. Once arrested, future murderers are fitted with a “halo” device that puts them into a coma. Then they are shipped to a warehouse where they are kept alive in a sort of automated storage facility.

Anderton is an expert at working with the Pre-Cogs but he does have an Achilles heel. A few years back, his little boy was kidnapped during a visit to a public swimming pool. Anderton’s anguish over the ordeal broke up his marriage and now he is a drug user as well. It has not affected his skill at his job, however. It is only when Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) from the Justice Department comes to evaluate him — hoping to take Anderton’s job and enjoy what could become the most powerful law enforcement position in the nation — that things start to go haywire.

Witwer demands to be allowed into the inner sanctum where the pre-cogs are kept. This chamber is called “The Temple” and is off limits to all but a single caretaker because any change in their environment might change the Pre-Cogs’ delicate reading of the future. After Witwer’s inspection, Anderton lingers to gaze closely at Agatha (Samantha Morton), the strongest of the three Pre-Cogs. Suddenly, she reaches out of her immersion pool, grabs him and says, “Can you see?” Above them, the projection screens play back an image of a murder from the past. Intrigued, Anderton begins to investigate the case.

Witwer is conducting his own investigation, however, and soon uncovers evidence that Anderton is a drug addict. He races to confront Anderton with the knowledge.
However, far from being cowed by Witwer, Anderton finds himself in even hotter water when the Pre-Cogs make a prediction about a new murderer…himself! Ignoring Witwer’s minor revelation about his drug use, Anderton makes his way out of the Precrime Headquarters and thus begins the chase as the other detectives learn that their Chief is now the object of the newest manhunt.

As he tries to elude his pursuers long enough to solve why he has been projected as a murderer, Anderton makes the discovery that during his six years in the Precrime unit the notion of their meeting out absolute justice has been a sham and that all three Pre-Cogs did not necessarily always agree about future murderers. This data was labeled as a “minority report” and automatically tossed out. After all, if it was found out the Pre-Cogs did not always agree, then they would be suspected of being fallible, and the funding for the highly effective Precrime Unit would end.

Anderton races to find his missing “minority report” and prove that he is not a murderer. In between running for his life, he ponders how the frame-up will continue, how he will elude the men he’s trained, and if, just if, the possibility exists that he is, in fact, the murderer.

I won’t tell you the end. Pleasant viewing!