Minority Report (2002)

(In theaters, June 2002) The notion of being able to foresee crimes before they occur is nicely pulpish; not based on any scientific theory, but sufficiently interesting to make us say “what if…?” The problem comes when you try to fit this pulpish notion in a believable “real” world, in which case the incongruities between story conceit and execution become more and more uncomfortable. That’s a lot how I feel about Minority Report, an excellent SF film that takes itself so seriously that the seams holding it together become nearly intolerable. The original story by Philip K. Dick is interesting but abandoned midway through (as the whole “Minority Report” concept becomes merely a MacGuffin), and the film’s attempt to provide authenticity through a “real” future becomes increasingly ridiculous. The vertical highways clash with the film’s other levels of technology, the “precog” concept seems non-scalable and non-renewable, the logical loops become more and more convoluted… Even worse, the procedural aspects of the film are simply untenable, a fatal flaw in a film that spends a lot of time setting them up; a would-be victim is left alone after an aborted crime; the process “witnesses” disappear as soon as they should be important; the security measures of a top-secret facility are laughably deficient… I wouldn’t pick apart such flaws in James Bond movies or dumb SF films like Starship Troopers, but Minority Report is so seductive in its willingness to imagine an original, plausible future that it’s almost asking nit-pickers to double-check. And it fails the test of scrutiny. Or does it? Despite my multiple reservations, I realize that it’s one of the best SF films I’ve seen in a long time, and is likely to remain on my Top-10 list at the end of the year. It’s packed with great action scenes, posits fascinating questions and features some wonderful special effects. What it doesn’t do is damning, but what it actually does is impressive. Despite multiple problems and flaws, Minority Report remains one of the must-see films of 2002, a solid, provocative blockbuster that’s almost better than it deserves to be.

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