Minority Report is that it represents at least three different story telling motifs, each of which could be lifted out and placed in some other context that would work just as well. On the one hand, it replays the familiar theme of a murder in which the innocent protagonist gets framed and spends the rest of the movie trying to prove his innocence while being chased by the authorities. The bad guys turn out to be part of the system that's meant to protect the little guy. Does that sound just like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive? Now let's add a twist and say that the murder hasn't happened yet, but it has been predicted to happen. In fact, the "system" in this case involves a society, even a police force, that relies on such predictions to prevent murders before they happen. They use clairvoyants, referred to as precogs, whose gifts have been enhanced by technology. Although the framing motif still remains intact, now the methods by which someone can be framed for a future murder become a lot more interesting and different. Note, however, that although this sounds like science fiction, the central mechanism, a pre-supposed belief in clairvoyance, is a paranormal phenomenon, not science. Also, the concepts of free will and determinism that it plays with are more philosophy than science as well.
So if the plot is pure action and drama and the twist turns it into a psychological thriller, where is the science fiction? Basically, it is in the setting in which the story takes place, which is simply human society in the relatively near future (2054 A.D). But unlike most other futuristic tales, this one attempts to be believable, and that alone is what makes this film stand apart from the others. Since the story line, which took some ideas from a short story by the always intriguing Philip K. Dick, relies only remotely on the setting in which it takes place, the creators did not have to mold the future to serve the plot. In fact, Spielberg conducted brainstorming sessions with scientists in various fields to get their predictions about what society might look like 50 years in the future. That's the kind of stuff sci-fi is all about and I'd rather spend a little time looking at what they came up with than doing just a run-of-the-mill movie review. After all, there's lots of that already on the web.
here on youtube. Microsoft's "surface" detects commands via camera image from below, which is actually more like the action-at-a-distance featured in the film than a touch screen device like the Apple iPad. Anyway, the opening sequence of the film that features this future technology plays like a digital symphony with Cruz as the conductor. In fact, the accompanying music track is a symphony that is cleverly worked into the action on screen - check it out here.
The same goes for architecture. Many homes look the same as today because people like living in houses that look old and traditional and will keep them basically unchanged for many decades, even as more modern offerings are built. The creators really looked back in history to determine not only what might change, but also what might stay the same. That is just plain genius.
One thing that MR does not hold back on is the idea that human nature does not change even as technology advances. Cruz's character is shown going through a divorce and becoming addicted to some type of drug. The delivery mechanism is different and the physical side effects of the drug itself has been refined away, but the effect on a person's life is just the same. Crime will not disappear and so neither would the police, even if their methods change. Instead of fingerprint identification they use iris imaging in MR. If you can be identified instantly by your iris signature, the existence of a black market in eye transplants does not seem like a stretch to me.
Jessica Capshaw did an excellent job portraying precog Evanna when she actually had to wake up and do something. I just discovered that Capshaw is Spielberg's stepdaughter, interestingly enough. But I will close here by saying that Minority Report remains a bit of an enigma. How can a film that contains so much fascinating insight suffer from such a one-dimensional plot line? Then again, it is a Spielberg film.
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