May 7, 2010

When Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg worked together in 2002, expectations were high. At the time, Cruise was coming off some of his most respected work since the 80’s, with Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia coming out in 1999. Cruise has always had an eye for working with the A-list of directors, and by the time of Minority Report he had made films with Martin Scorsese, both Tony and Ridley Scott, Cameron Crowe, Oliver Stone and on and on. Spielberg had to be a crown jewel (well, after Kubrick), so it’s interesting that much of the film is about Spielberg making fun of Cruise’s pretty-boy image.

Cruise stars as John Anderton, a divorcee with a son who was kidnapped, and now works in the pre-crime division keeping violent crimes from happening. There are three pre-cogs who see the future and try and stop violence from occurring, but there are those who doubt the system, and its effect on free will. Which is partly why their work is being investigated by Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell)? The hunter becomes the cliché when the next pre-cog notification implies that Anderton is going to kill someone. My review of Minority Report on Blu-ray after the jump.

Minority Report is set in the future, a not too distant future, but Spielberg – coming off of A.I. – hadn’t really delved into future world stuff before these movies, so part of the fun of it is seeing the world he and his people helped fabricate. And they had fun as there are rocket packs, sick sticks, and shockwave guns. The film opens poorly by having an incident where a man is about to kill his wife, but Anderton and his crack team are a little slow on figuring out the location. It sort of suggests the moral ambiguity of the pre-cog situation, but only sort of. Shortly thereafter John is bothered by Danny, who wants to watch over everything. John’s got his secrets, which his mentor Lamar Burgess (Max Von Sydow) is aware of and tries to hide. John’s still hurting over the loss of his son, and his estrangement from his wife, so he’s on a new futuristic drug. Then the ball rolls that tells Anderton that he’s going to kill someone, and so he goes on a mad chase to find out who he’s going to kill and if it’s true he’ll do it. This leads him to the creator of the experiment (Lois Smith), and then kidnapping the lead pre-cog Agatha (Samantha Morton), to find out if there was a “minority report” (the pre-cogs don’t always agree someone’s going to commit a crime).

For the first two thirds of the film, it really starts building on the ideas of free will, predetermination, things that are germane to the material. But at a certain point the film then turns into a murder mystery, and everything up to that point is ruined. After A.I., and then Catch Me if You Can and The Terminal, it’s easy to see why Spielberg’s endings have been targeted as his weakness. Not only is the ending here not really connected thematically to what came before (and puts the weight of destroying the idea of precognition on a character we don’t care about), it’s sloppily done. There’s a scene that is a note for note take from L.A. Confidential, and it’s betrayed by the idea of the scene itself (the character who gives exposition doesn’t realize that he’s giving it to the one person who’s in a position to use it against him, literally, the only person).

But though the film ends poorly, and such has led many to feel that there’s a parallel narrative in regards to the film’s ending (where Anderton’s character dreams the rest of the film), I don’t think there’s any evidence that suggests there is a dream divide, and I think the reason why people came up with that diversion is because it makes the ending slightly less terrible. But, these issues noted, there is always something to savor when it comes to Spielberg. And here it was that it was his first widescreen (2.35:1) film since Hook. Having spent nearly a decade shooting in the 1.85:1 (flat) aspect ratio, it was great to see him go scope once more, and he didn’t lose his eye for it. There’s some goofy comedy stuff, and I think this is Spielberg at his most De Palma-esque, as there are a number of beats and set pieces that feel of that sort (though it’s also a bit Hitchcockian, no doubt). The problem is that Spielberg doesn’t seem committed to the core ideas of the film, and so he veers. It’s a misfire, but not a terrible one. He also seems committed to ugly-ing up Tom Cruise. If the film works on one level, it’s Cruise letting the film mocks his good looks and charms. And Spielberg seems to delight in this form of actor masochism, giving Cruise a new set of eyes, and a sequence where he turns into an ugly old man, and then the conclusion, where Cruise is shaved bald. Unfortunately, the film is filled with small pleasures more than large ones.

Paramount’s Blu-ray release is a two disc set that offers the film on the first disc with no additional content, so the film has the best possible transfer. It looks stunning, and is widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1. On disc two there’s “The Future According to Steven Spielberg” (34 min.), which one can watch as a stand-alone interview or with branching points to supplements from other parts of the disc. Since there is overlap but not complete overlap, I prefer not clicking on the branching points. There’s a featurette called “Inside the Mind of Pre-crime” (11 min.) which tries to replicate the experience of living in that world. Then comes “Phillip K. Dick, Steven Spielberg and Minority Report” (15 min.), which gets people like Scott Frank and Isa Dick Hackett (Phillip’s Daughter) to talk about the source material and the film. “Future Revealed” (6 min.)  speaks to the film’s technology and its likelihood of coming to pass. “Props of the Future” (9 min.) has production designer Alex McDowell walk through a collection of his work, while “Highlights From Minority Report: From the Set” (9 min.) walks you through some behind the scenes footage, and “Commercials of the Future” (4 min.) goes over the film’s invasive advertising. There are two Pre-vized sequences (4 min.), and all of this material was done specifically for this release, so there is new content for those upgrading.

There’s also all the content from the original DVD special edition, which includes a “From Story to Screen” section (19 min.), “Deconstructing Minority Report” (33 min.), and “The Stunts of Minority Report” (9 min.), “ILM and Minority Report” (19 min.), and then “Final Report” (4 min.). This was all done by Laurent Bouzerau, who’s been behind Spielberg’s special features since the laserdisc days. There’s also a Production Concepts still gallery, three storyboard sequences (9 min.), and three trailers, so it’s a loaded set that does good fan service in the upgrade.

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