Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
There’s a quote that’ll get your attention, eh?
Or try this one:
”Steven Spielberg's latest foray into sci-fi territory is also his darkest and most socially relevant, as it outfits a straight-ahead man-on-the-run film noir yarn with extraordinary technological postulations as well as a genuinely thoughtful investigation of the suddenly pertinent subject of thwarting anticipated crime before it happens.” – Todd McCarthy, VARIETY
Strong words. Even stronger was Roger Ebert’s nearly-unhinged declarations of love on this weekend’s syndicated episode of EBERT & ROEPER, where he called the film “a masterpiece.”
I’ve professed my open admiration for this script many times over the past year, but I never reviewed it on the site. Part of the reason was fear of spoilers, something I'll be very careful about in my comments today. This is one of those films that will be very difficult to discuss with someone who hasn’t seen it yet without ruining something. Densely plotted, it is as smart and canny a spin on the tradition detective picture as BLADE RUNNER was. It’s no coincidence that both of these films were based on source material by Philip K. Dick. He was a master at spinning mindbending concepts in story after story, questioning the fabric of reality and the nature of consciousness in smart, wickedly-built stories that would leave the reader reeling.
Steven Spielberg is one of those filmmakers who I will never count out, no matter what happens. He could make a decade of nothing but disasters, and I’d still bet on his next film every time out. A.I. left me cold last summer, and I still get hate mail about my review, which seems odd since it was a mixed reaction. I admire the ambition of the piece, if not the execution. When I first read MINORITY REPORT, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the final film. On the page, it didn’t read like a typical Spielberg movie. It was dark, with a pessimistic view of the world in many ways, with a deeply flawed central character and a series of twists along the way that leads to a sad, haunting conclusion that is not at all what I expected.
Talking to people close to the film, it sounded like Spielberg came back from A.I. with a different approach to screenplays. He’s a notorious tinkerer. He tweaks sequences as he shoots, and he’s an inventive, even intuitive filmmaker. He has a great sense for how things will eventually cut together, and it allows him to improvise while he shoots, like a musician. In this case, coming off of a film that he wrote the script for, Spielberg reportedly worked to bring the script to the screen intact. At one point, he described his aesthetic vision for the film as “THE FRENCH CONNECTION directed by Fellini.” It definitely sounds like he’s made something distinctive and even visionary, and it thrills me to no end.
I’ve heard many complaints about the trailers for the film, saying they were uninteresting, saying they looked like a SF FUGITIVE ripoff. And I agree. I’m not a big fan of the trailers so far. I think the one truly effective piece of film I’ve seen is the Internet Exclusive trailer that Steven Spielberg cut and released last week. This finally does it, sells the film the right way, and I think it's a great piece of promo cutting.
There are very few shots in any of the trailers that come from anything other than the first third of the film. That’s by design. You see, Robert Zemeckis may have given up on ever surprising an audience again (his trailers have become the absolute worst about giving away the whole film), but Spielberg hasn’t.
And it’s a good thing. MINORITY REPORT is a clasically structured mystery, which is good practice for Scott Frank, whose next script A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES is an adaptation of one of Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder mysteries. Forget all the high-tech predictions of futuristic technology in the film. This is a script about what happens to people when they hand over blind faith to technology and stop relying on their own understanding of human nature. There’s a great moment where someone asks a Precrime cop when the last time they had to Mirandize someone was, when you realize just how removed from responsibility and rational deductive work these “detectives” have become. To introduce a system where the very need to investigate has vanished, and then set a mystery into motion, is a clever concept that provides far more substantial pleasure in the script than just mere action set pieces piled one on top of another.
The other thing that made the script stand out for me was its sadness. For a summer movie, it has a surprisingly broken heart. I couldn’t help but flash on the remarkable last line of A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT (“I am... haunted by water”) as I read this script. Tom Cruise’s character Anderton made one mistake in his life, and he’s paid for it for years. He tortures himself every night, rubbing his own nose in images and memories that remind him of what he’s lost. He is a drug addict as the film begins, unrepentent about his usage, working every night to kill himself, or at least to kill the pain. One would expect this journey to heal all of Anderton’s wounds, but that’s not the case. Instead, this is a journey about sacrifice and loss, and dealing with that loss. It’s about being so afraid of hurting that you close yourself off from feeling. And it’s about wishing you could change the past so much that you’ll do anything to change the future. There are layers of subtext to this script that reward repeat readings. A big part of that is because of the wealth of supporting characters, all etched memorably. I can’t wait to see how Peter Stormare and Lois Smith and Steve Harris and Tim Blake Nelson and Jessica Harper and Mike Binder and Max Von Sydow all bring life to these roles they’ve been given.
One of our readers wrote in with this review. Thanks, "Mediababe":
Long time reader, but I just HAD to write in with my MINORITY REPORT...um, report!
Now I know you don't know me from Adam (who is that guy?), but I just got back from seeing Spielberg's latest at the Odeon Leicester Square in London and the media/press screening. I'm a media researcher for a daytime TV show here in the UK, and right now I can't describe the state I'm in - excited, rushed...
All I can say is see this movie. You don't need me to tell you that, but get out there, first night, and take it in and lap it up.
This is the best thing Spielberg has done in YEARS, definitely since Jurassic Park. Mix the best of A.I.'s futuristic scope, the Saturday matinee of Indiana Jones and a little of star Tom Cruise's Vanilla Sky, and you're in Minority Report land. The cinematography, from regular collaborator Janusz Kiminski, sparkles, even though most of it is bathed in the deep metallic blue hues as seen in the trailer. Blacks are deep black, skin tones blue bleached, possibly the natural progression from A.I. The "shutter-speed" effect, used by SS since Schindler's List and by Ridley Scott in Gladiator, comes into play again here, adding some strobe to the action that just boosts the atmosphere of a scene and brings it to life as only a movie can. Speilberg's direction is faultless. The timing, framing, performances and pacing of the film are just so spot on, but never lagging behind. You'll always find Spileberg is one step ahead of you.
Now some people might guess what's going on early in the film, but I was taken in and by the time I'd got it, it's revealed that you can't trust anyone - not least yourself! Plot twists, double-crosses, set-ups and shocking payoffs - this film keeps you guessing right up until the end. At the end of the day, it's a who-dunnit, albeit a very well made and scripted whodunnit! The central premise of the three beings who can see the future, and therefore the crimes that will take place, is well executed, even though a couple of questions may come into your mind, such as "what happens when these people die? Who takes over?" - although it doesn't really matter in the end. Likewise, when Cruise is accused of murder and on the run, how come his eye scan is still authorized in the main police building? These things, while they may bug you at first, are not crucial plot points, and nothing ranks up there with the T-Rex who escaped the cargo hold, ate the entire ship's passengers and locked itself back in the hold, from Lost World.
There are scenes of tension. The little spider-machine probes searching out Cruise while he hides out is not only edge-of-your-seat stuff in the best Spielberg tradition, it's also very well done. The visual effects, split between ILM and DreamWorks' own PDI are the best since LOTR. Although AOTC was very photorealistic, it is a fantasy film. LOTR was too, of course, but had moments where the fantasy was supposed to be reality. Minority Report shares this sense of the fantastic being totally believable, the fx intergrating perfectly into the style and look of the film. So, too, do the moments of (for want of a better word) comedy. But here it's clever and woven in subtly, coming at moments when a smile lifts you out of the depths and dark tunnels the movie travels.
Audio wise, John Williams shows why again he's the voice of Spielberg's movies, gelling better here than in the last couple of films he's scored (AOTC being an exception, of course)! It's a dark and suspicious score, full of mystery. No major themes spring forward and lodge in the mind, but this is a very plot heavy and dialog driven movie, so that's just the way it should be. Williams' music accentuates each scene, buidling the suspense as much as anything Cruise and company do on screen.
And what about Tom Cruise? With SS coming off A.I. and his star coming off Vanilla Sky, Minority Report really does feel like a meeting of these two colaborators and their previous projects. Cruise pretty much delivers his usual easy going, confident persona, until he's on the run, and he becomes the hunted. There's a spark of terror in his eyes (both sets!), but you kind of know that he's gonna pull through this...isn't he?
That's what I liked best about this film. Yes, it's hard, edgy and sharp as a knife, but that's just the tip of the Spielberg. Simultaneously his most mainstream blockbuster and risky project in ages, Spielberg's clearly having fun with everything at his disposal, from the actors (Max Von Sydow is the "Company Man" you can trust to keep things on track) to the audio and (the sometimes quite gory s/fx. It's all here, in crisp, top fashion, in bucket-loads, almost like a souped-up, compressed version of 24 where anything - and anyone - goes!
Sure, it's not a perfect movie (it's coming out July 4th - it's a summer
blockbuster!), but despite it's very Spielbergian ending, and those couple of usual kind of "WTF!?" moments, this is a rough-and-ready rumble into hard-edged action movie fare usually reserved for Verhoeven and the like, but the bearded one shows why he's top of the pack once more.
I hope I have a glimpse of the future this week and make it into one of the all-media screenings, but barring that, I’ll see the film opening night. I’m as excited about this movie now as I have been for anything that’s opened yet this year. I look forward to being back here in the next few days to discuss this with you guys, as I’m sure it’s going to be the kind of movie to spur intense and heated debate. Until then...