Minority Report is a puzzle done right

This year is the 25th anniversary of the release of the first Jurassic Park. For most of us at Cinedelphia, it is a film that has defined what we look for in a summer blockbuster. So what better time than now to revisit the last 25 years of summer blockbusters and pick our favorites? View the criteria and full introduction here, and the whole series here.

11. Minority Report (dir. Steven Spielberg, 2002)

I wrote about Minority Report not too long ago when the Cinedelphia staff were asked (unfairly I might add) to pick our favorite Spielberg movie. This was particularly difficult for me because I don’t think Spielberg knows how to make a “bad” movie. This is not to say that every movie he’s directed is pure gold—of course not. Even the titles I don’t necessarily love, I still undeniably enjoy in some capacity. For some reason, when trying to decide on a “favorite,” I kept coming back to Minority Report. Of course, I grew up on all of the early Spielberg blockbuster classics, and part of me felt physically pained to not answer Jurassic Park or Indiana Jones, but I just have this strange unabashed love for Minority Report.

Set in the near-future, a group of triplets can predict how and when murders will take place. A highly-skilled team of police monitor their brain activity and examine the often-distorted premonitions in order to prevent the grisly acts from happening. Tom Cruise stars as Chief John Anderton, whose entire world is turned upside down when he himself is accused of committing a future murder. So, let’s be totally honest, this plot sounds completely ludicrous and, frankly, a bit stupid. In the wrong hands I have no doubt this movie would be a total flop. Spielberg manages to take this outlandish premise and make the world so believable that you find yourself not really thinking twice about anything that happens. This is also made possible by Cruise’s performance. Say what you want about the man, but he’s a great actor. Fight me on it. While dealing with the insane stress of his work and a mild drug addiction, Anderton is also battling the impossible loss of his young child. He’s a complicated character, but Cruise’s nuanced performance is truly wonderful to watch.

Something else that I would like to bring to light about this film is that it really pulls off its twist ending. If you’ve actually never seen the movie, well, shame on you, but don’t worry because I won’t say any direct spoilers. The reason I think the twist is so well thought out is because our entire perception of this future murder relies on unreliable premonitions. Things are sometimes distorted, upside down, or altogether off. That makes predicting anything nearly impossible. Just as Anderton is trying desperately to piece together the events of the future, so are we. Not even that, but if you do happen to predict the end that doesn’t matter. It takes nothing away from the climax of the movie, because a good twist never does—it only adds more substance to everything that came before it. Minority Report doesn’t end in a cheap “I told you so” kind of way. The whole film is one big puzzle, and as it finally unfolds, it’s extremely satisfying.

Author: Catherine Haas

Catherine Haas is a native Philadelphian who received her master’s in film history from Columbia University. She is a freelance film programmer, writer, and an avid pug enthusiast.

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