DVD Review: Minority Report

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I like Philip K Dick, but, oddly, have never read any of his stories that have been turned into movies, so I have no idea how faithful the movie is to PKD’s original vision.

Minority Report is set in the dystopic, Blade Runner-esque Washington DC of 2054, where murder has been eliminated by the use of three Precogs – genetically engineered humans with the ability to predict future murders.

On the surface, it’s a typical Spielberg/Cruise sci-fi action thriller about a cop who finds himself accused of committing murder in a couple of days time, and with all the cool futuristic gadgets on display, it is fun to watch on that level (especially now, some 12 years after its release, many of those gadgets actually exist or are in development). The future of personalised advertising and paranoia-driven security devices is nicely (if somewhat worryingly) extrapolated from the early 21st Century, too.

minority-report-uiBut, PKD was always an ideas man, and underlying all the action is a story about the genetic manipulation of humans, the treatment of those with ‘super-human’ abilities, and the concepts of free will versus determinism.

There is also a sense of moral ambiguity about the pre-emptive arrest system; it’s all well and good to start with, but then when our hero, detective John Anderton, finds the finger of predictive accusation pointed his way, suddenly it’s not such a clever system.

In reality, I suppose, the wisdom of such a system would really depend on the type of punishment handed out for a crime that was never committed; anger management or forced removal from a situation would seem somewhat fairer in general than putting an almost-criminal in an enforced coma, but a good story needs high stakes.

Confronting the bad guy towards the end of the film, Anderton says that once you know your future, you can change it if you want to. Yes, we’re back at the weird intersection of free will and predestination, always a fun topic for debate among Christians – although trying to reconcile Pre-Crime with either side of the debate is likely to result in brain-melting.

Theological debates about predestination aside, I found the different attitudes towards the Precogs interesting.

We don’t choose the things we believe in; they choose us.

To most, they were a tool, simply another way to catch criminals. Less than human, their ‘normal’ characteristics having been suppressed to ensure they were always able to perform their function.

Yet they were cared for in a room known affectionately as ‘the temple’, where few were allowed to enter, and almost worshipped as super-human entities by those responsible for their well-being.

Of course, our hero, detective John Anderton, comes to see them as equals – as three-dimensional human beings – and brings about a rather pointless Hollywood happy ending.

As a final thought, can anyone else relate to having been prevented from doing something really stupid by something outside your control? Has God ever stepped in like a Pre-Crime cop and pre-emptively arrested you?

On the other hand, have you ever made a decision that, had you known how it would play out, you would have made differently? Is God predictive or reactive when it comes to our mistakes?

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