All of the hype for “Minority Report” in the newspapers, magazines,
and television says that it is an action epic set in the future. It is
that and a lot more.
“Minority Report,” based on short story by legendary sci-fi writer
Philip K. Dick, is a political thriller that challenges anyone who sees
it to examine his or her commitment to the principles of our democracy.
The setting is Washington, D.C., in the year 2054. A government agency
called Pre-Crime, armed with the insights of staff psychics, called
pre-cogs, is charged with arresting individuals who the pre-cogs see
committing murders in the near future. These pre-criminals, none of whom
have broken the law, are rounded up and put away for life. Pre-Crime has
operated as a pilot program for six years, and it has been fabulously
successful. The Washington murder rate is down to zero. The flaw in this
perfect system, as one of the supporting characters points out, is that
it was created by, and is run by, humans who are imperfect and can be
The action really begins when the staff psychics finger Pre-Crime’s
top cop John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, for a future murder. The
hunter becomes the hunted, and Anderton finds himself running and
reexamining his faith in the system he helped to create. The balance of
the movie, for better or worse, is a long chase that flows into a cascade
Hiding behind the action and Spielberg’s visions of our future world
is an unsettling question.
Cruise as the cop-on-the-run is attractive and intense as usual;
Spielberg’s direction is ambitious, dark and arresting; the effects are
spectacular; and the movie is about 20 minutes too long. Spielberg did
not need all of the futuristic gimmicks, stunts and digital effects to
tell this tale; but that’s what he does best, and that’s what sells
After the credits roll and the lights come on, after the action and
effects fade away, we are left with the question Philip K. Dick raised
decades ago and Steven Spielberg pushes into our faces on the big screen:
Can we trust government to protect our rights?
“Minority Report” is a sci-fi story, but it is also as contemporary
as you can get.
* Dennis Piszkiewicz is a Laguna Beach resident.