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  Minority Report  
  20th Century Fox  
  Steven Spielberg  
  Scott Frank, based on the short story by Philip K. Dick  
  Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Steve Harris, Neal McDonough, Samantha Morton  
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One of the friends I went to see this movie with remarked that ever since Titanic, movies have been unafraid to break the 90-minute barrier. Sometimes this is a good thing, and Minority Report is one of those times. If they had tried to pare this movie down a lot, it would have been a little too action-oriented. Even though the action was good, the story was there, and it deserved to have some time of its own.

That’s pretty much the problem with any sci-fi movie. On the one hand, the movie medium kind of lends itself to putting up flashy effects on the screen and letting the eye candy do the job for you. On the other hand, science fiction as a genre is really born out of the “what if” speculations of putting people we can relate to in situations that would be wholly unfamiliar to us. And that’s all about story. Therefore, so much sci-fi is bad because this is really a fine line to walk.

Anyway, this movie didn’t exactly knock my socks off, but it was worth a matinee. It takes place in the near future. Tom Cruise plays a Washington, DC police “detective” who is a member of the Precrimes division, where the premonitions of three clairvoyants kept in a near-sleep state are used to arrest people and put them in a prison of suspended animation indefinitely. There’s some truly pretentious nonsense about how the clairvoyants can only see future murders because ending someone’s life is the only act that sufficiently disrupts the metaphysical zeitgeist for the “pre-cogs” to clearly see. It’s supposed to have prevented all murders for the past nine years. Suddenly the next vision has Tom Cruise perpetrating a murder himself, and the movie turns into a chase movie.

As far as the plot goes, the threads get tied up a little too neatly in the end for my liking. It seems that if these pieces had been lying around like they had, then somebody would have made some noise before nine years had gone by. Most of the future realization was good, and the stunts were entertaining. It’s pretty extreme measures to go to, using clairvoyants to prevent murders and having a team of commandos ready to be sent out anywhere in the city on a moment’s notice, but apparently murders had spiked. I’m sure it couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the cities had become so overcrowded that people were stacked up in mile-high towers, right?

Anyway, that takes us to the main point, the idea of taking away someone’s liberty for the threat they pose, instead of the acts they’ve committed. It’s pretty timely, what with the federal government now keeping four U.S. citizens in indefinite detention, and it’s especially reminiscent of Jose Padilla’s case. The best sci-fi acts as a mirror to our own selves. I think the movie could have held up the mirror a little more closely; I was disappointed, especially since so many people are going to walk out of this movie without really confronting this basic issue for themselves. A movie doesn’t need to preach, but it did pass up a golden opportunity to allow itself to be a real springboard for discussion about what has become a very important point of citizenship. I mean, if a movie like A.I. can open up so much discussion about what a freaky movie A.I. is, this could spark discussion too, right?

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