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Reel Critics

Dennis Piszkiewicz

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.

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“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

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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

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corrupted.

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

of climaxes.

Hiding behind the action and Spielberg’s visions of our future world

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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

tickets.

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.


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