21 Oct

Minority Report

“The fact that you prevented it from happening doesn’t change the fact that it was going to happen.”

– John Anderton


The Setup

With Jack Reacher: Never Go Back hitting theaters this week, we thought we would write up a post on the original, as we are wont to do when movie sequels come out. However, we felt like the title of the new Jack Reacher movie was trying to warn us against going back to the first movie, so we decided to watch a different Tom Cruise movie instead. Ben had never seen Minority Report, which is one of those movies that is still referenced fairly often, especially in Philosophy 101 classes, so we decided to see how the Tommy C. helmed 2002 film held up.

The Food

From a philosophical standpoint, the key tension in Minority Report is the theme of free will versus determinism, the latter of which is the idea that “all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will.” In the film, the Pre-Crime Unit sees the events leading up to a murder and then intervenes to stop the murder from taking place. In the same way, we are going to show you the events, or ingredients, leading up to the future dish.

Tommy C. putting together a murder plot just like put together these recipes. Just like it.

Tommy C. putting together a murder plot exactly like we put together these recipes. Exactly.

Our appetizer was potential pickles, which on their own won’t make too much sense, but you know that sensation of having a meaty, delicious sandwich and you just need a pickle to “wash” it down?” Well, hold on to that feeling because you’ll need it later. Also, fun fact, potential pickles is a fun way to talk about cucumbers. Try it out!

We had future turkey clubs for the meal, which could someday pair nicely with the potential pickles we made. The only issue would be that by the time the potential pickles would be properly pickled, the turkey club would have gone bad, resembling the nasty sandwich Tom Cruise accidentally ate in the movie. Guess he didn’t see that one coming! (*Badum tsss!*) He should have assigned one of the PreCogs to look out for crimes against his taste buds.

We rounded out our someday lunch with a could-be cookie. This cookie was set up to succeed, with dark chocolate discs and all of that other deliciousness you put in cookies. We certainly hope baking and eating these cookies are in our futures.

The Drinks

Inspired by the nasty-ass cup of milk Tommy C. downs after the moldy-as-hell sandwich, we got everything ready for what might be a milk-based, sweet-and-spicy cocktail called Bhang. This drink will someday be defined by its almond paste and cardamom. It might taste a bit like horchata. And it may end up with way more rum in it than is usually included in a Bhang. And it may also be incredibly delicious. Being that we are talking about a future cocktail here, we really can’t be sure, though.

The Rules

  1. Drink while Tom Cruise runs. (Bonus points if you drink whenever they talk about Tom running… it happens more than you’d expect.)
  2. Drink when the film makes a big deal about eyeballs.
  3. Drink for future gadgets.

The Movie

Unfortunately, we did not find much to like about Minority Report. We had every reason to, as it was a science fiction thriller, a combination of three words that interest all three of us, but unfortunately it failed in all the same places most sci-fi thrillers falter.

A common theme in much of sci-fi is to look at where society is now, what trends we are seeing, and what implications we have as those trends play out. Minority Report did this part well, for the most part. In 2002, when the film came out, the Patriot Act had just passed a year prior, so it was natural that Spielberg chose to develop a story with heavy themes of government surveillance of private life and entrapment, both used as justification to prevent future crimes. The film also covers the future of targeted advertising which was poignant, as Google had just started running targeted ads in their search results in 2000. We also see self driving cars, gesture-controlled interfaces, and voice-automated smart homes, all of which we’ve seen evolve quite a bit since Minority Report came out.

Other than the Pre-Crime Unit, though, all of these technologies are basically only mentioned or shown in passing. None really have an impact on the plot. In fact, the only other technology in the film that impacts the plot in any way is retina scanning. Your retina is your identity in the world of Minority Report, so when Tommy C. has to disappear while he is on the run, he has to switch out his eyeballs. The audience is treated to a scene which felt like it was about 45 minutes too long where Tommy C. has his eyes wrapped up while they heal from the eye swap surgery, and every single other sense is accosted by his surroundings while he hides out from robots trying to scan his eyes. In the end, nothing happens. The drama in the scene is very hyped up, but we’re left disappointed. It was an idea that resonated with others in the writing and editing room, but ultimately had no impact on the story as a whole.

We also weren’t blown away by any of the action scenes. Maybe we’re spoiled by Fast and Furiousbut we just didn’t have the adrenaline rush you want out of an action sequence once in the movie. We were downright angry when we watched the conveyor belt fight, which felt so blasé. Every movie has a conveyor belt action sequence these days. Clone Wars. Toy Story 3. Terminator 2. If you have to have a fight on a conveyor belt, you need to make it memorable in some way, and Minority Report did nothing that impressed us.

What about the philosophical heart of the film? Well, it has a certain pay off in terms of the ending twist but never really warrants the mentions in Philosophy 101 rooms except to get everyone to immediately recognize the topic that is being discussed. Being the huge blockbuster it was, and even with the 2 hour and 30 minute run-time, it never really had the opportunity to dive deep into the philosophical debate, nor did it ever have any intention to. Minority Report was more than happy to build up the philosophical set dressing, and that is all it ever was.

The Reviews

André: Could have done without it, really. I admit I was pretty excited to watch Minority Report because I love a good thinkpiece, but the movie didn’t grab me in any way. I enjoyed the showcase of technology predictions in the first few scenes, but it then quickly devolved into a by-the-numbers thriller, and I was anything but thrilled.

Leanna: This movie reminded me why I don’t like Tom Cruise. I’d been open to giving Tommy C. another chance after his surprisingly stellar performance in Edge of Tomorrow and after hearing good things about his recent Mission Impossible films. This movie, and his performance in it, was mediocre at best, which was especially hard for me to come to terms with because I distinctly remember really liking this movie when I saw it years ago, probably close to when it came out. I was really captivated by the self-driving car technology and really just all of the gadgets in general. The film definitely doesn’t hold up, and I don’t plan on revisiting it again in another 14 years.

Ben: 20%. Perhaps I went into this film with the wrong mindset, but since the first second of this film, I could not find much to enjoy. It really didn’t start strong though with this over-exposed look that is drenched in future-blue, that has aged incredibly poorly. Throughout the entire film, Minority Report was more interested in what the future would visually look like without stopping to think about why it would look like that or how it came to be. The result is a future that has been built up and then placed with actors that don’t quite understand the technology that surrounds them or very specifically try not to use it. This all has the unfortunate effect of breaking that sense of disbelief you try to enter into a piece of media with. This is all very unfortunate because the core conceit written about in Phillip K Dick’s short story, of the same name, is interesting and thought-provoking. Since watching the movie I have struggled to properly describe why this film frustrated me so much, which you will hear a bit of in the podcast, and I have ultimately settled on the fact that this feels like a film that is strung together by interesting moments and then hastily paints in the connective tissue that would make the film complete. The potential of the film was so much greater than the end product.

The Podcast

This weeks podcast contains copious amounts of groans from Ben, allowing you to understand his true frustration with film and guest spots from “Hayden Christensen” and “Steven Spielberg”.