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Minority Report

Minority Report on DVD

By Jim Bray

Steven Spielberg is in his best form since “Jurassic Park” with this futuristic mind game that continues the tradition of terrific movies inspired by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick.

Tom Cruise is John Anderton, head of the Precrime unit that uses the precognition abilities of three “precogs” to prevent murders before they happen. It’s kind of a neat concept the way they’ve written and filmed it; it’s very believable and the story really pulls you along, with enough curves along the way to keep you paying attention. This movie is a treat for the mind, with typically Spielberg state of the art filmmaking that also makes it a treat for the eyes and ears.

Well, maybe not quite a treat for the eyes, because Spielberg chose to give the film a kind of film noir look and that gives it a deliberately grainy and washed out appearance. This isn’t a criticism of the choice, or the film, and in fact it doesn’t hurt the film’s mood - but it means this isn’t a DVD you’ll use to show off your home theater.

Anyway, when the precogs finger (or is it “brain”?) Anderton for an upcoming murder the foot is suddenly on the other hand for our intrepid hero, and rather than stay and fight what he believes to be an inaccurate charge he goes on the run. This gives plenty of opportunity for slam-bang action through an intriguing extrapolation of our how our society will be in about fifty years.

The visualization of the future is really good; not necessarily good as in it portrays an extremely positive future, because it doesn’t in many ways, but it’s well thought out and very believable. The universal identification of citizens is even more timely in the post September 11, 2001 world, and the way the marketers of the future have tied that in with their damn talking billboards may turn out to be annoyingly prescient.

So does Anderton get caught or does he actually commit the murder, even though he’s never heard of the guy he’s accused of being about to off? We won’t spoil that for you but rest assured the outcome isn’t cut and dried, nor is it what you expect. And everything is well rationalized; there are no major holes in this plot.

Of course, you know things are going to go to hell right near the beginning when they talk about the Precrime unit being incapable of error…

Minority Report shares some things with the other great Philip K. Dick-inspired movies. Like “Blade Runner” we have a cerebral crime drama of the future, and like “Total Recall” we have enough action, and enough mind games, for about two movies.

Cruise doesn’t seem to command the respect as an actor that he deserves, and he’s very good as Anderton. He gets to play action hero and frightened fugitive in the same screenplay, and though you’re kind of beaten over the head by it his character also has real human depth.

The supporting cast is very good, too. We have Max Von Sydow, who’s always great when not appearing in “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” as Anderton’s friend and mentor and Colin Farrell as the government hotshot who initially appears there to second guess Anderton or jiggle his elbow in other ways. Rounding out the lead quartet is Samantha Morton as Agatha, the "head" precog.

Minority Report is far, far better than Spielberg’s last big foray into sci-fi, A.I. Artificial Intelligence. A.I. had some neat Kubrickian ideas, but ended up being more or less a bloated, high tech version of Pinocchio that went on far too long. Minority Report never drags and it feels shorter than its 146 minute running time.

The DVD is of good quality, but as mentioned above because of the film’s look the video quality isn’t going to jump out of the screen at you. The image is sharp; in one flashback where the color isn’t washed out you can get a better idea for the picture quality, and it’s fine. As a movie lover I think Spielberg made a good choice for the film’s look, but as a videophile I wish they could have done it without all the grain.

Oh well, at least when art and technology met Spielberg chose art.

One aspect of the video quality needs to be trumpeted loudly and clearly, though. Dreamworks is joining other studios on their journey to the dark side of the force by releasing the Minority Report DVD in separate widescreen and Pan&Scan versions. We’re really against this; while we’d love it if everyone would watch the original aspect ratio, whether widescreen or the 4x3 shape of early TV and movies, we understand some people’s aversion to black bars. But studios used to solve this by offering both versions in the same box, so the DVD would satisfy customers regardless of their TV. Now, people who buy the so-called full screen version will have to buy a widescreen version when they move to 16x9 TV’s – which is nearly everyone.

To prove the point, we were sent the Pan&Scan version and that meant we had to watch it zoomed and stretched to fill our 16x9 reference rear projection TV, which distorts the picture to a certain extent and costs apparent resolution and therefore the ultimate picture quality.

And yet studios continue to offer audio choices between Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS with many discs (including this one). Go figure. Minority Reports's audio quality is excellent, however, and there’s plenty of great surround use.

Rather than putting the different aspect ratio on the second disc, Dreamworks has used that disc to shower us with extra material. A lot of it’s pretty interesting stuff, too. It's basically one long "making of" documentary broken up into a series of featurettes, not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that.

First up is "Minority Report: From Story to Screen" in which Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise give us their thoughts. "Deconstructing Minority Report" focuses on how director Spielberg brought together some renowned minds to dream up the convincing near-future world of the film. "The Stunts of Minority Report,” not surprisingly, recounts how the action scenes and stunts were done.

ILM is on hand for "The Digital World of Minority Report" a feature looking into the terrific special effects. There’s also a Minority Report Archives of production concepts, storyboards, photographs, production notes, and bios.

In all, Minority Report, at least in its widescreen incarnation, deserves to be in the DVD library of all science fiction fans.

Minority Report, from Dreamworks Home Video
146 min. Pan&Scan (not 16x9 TV compatible) / anamorphic widescreen sold separately, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS audio
Starring Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Max Von Sydow
Produced by Gerald R. Molen, Bonnie Curtis, Walter F. Parkes, Jan De Bont
Written by Scott Frank and Jon Cohen, directed by Steven Spielberg


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Updated March 11, 2019