In the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king
This is spoken in Minority Report by a drug-dealer on the streets with no eyes at all, so I suppose its free advice for John Anderton, our hero, or a bit of wise-sounding advice meant to get across to the audience but with no other good place for it to fit in the film. This is fine with me, too, because Minority Report is such a taut futuristic thriller that an incongruous little bit of wisdom like this is not to have any negative impact on the film as a whole. John Anderton, played with precision by the great Tom Cruise (oh shut up, the man's awesome), is the chief of the Pre-Crime department in the District of Columbia, which has successfully eradicated murder entirely for the last six years. He works with a group of `pre-cogs' that, together, dream of murders that have not yet taken place and project enough information for Anderton and his team to watch the video emanating from their heads to determine where and when the murders are to take place and to get to those locations and stop the murders from happening before they happen.
This is obviously a formula for a highly successful action movie, but the thing that really makes Minority Report succeed is that it pays so much amount of attention to things that would occur in this situation in real life. It is explained very early in the film that the invention of Pre-Crime has eradicated premeditated murder, as this is most easily detected by the pre-cogs. The majority of the `business,' then, of the Pre-Crime division in the District of Columbia, are crimes of passion. This not only provides the possibility of a lot more tension in that these crimes leave a lot less time for prevention, but also avoids complicating the plot with the details of premeditated murders. We don't care about a guy who wronged another guy five years ago or drug deals gone bad, all we need to hear about are a guy who comes home to find his wife in bed with another man and loses control.
Given the fact that the movie involves some sort of time-travel (even if information is the only thing traveling through time), it leaves itself open to criticism about plot holes. This is obvious, because plot holes like this even permeated the unparalleled Back to the Future series, which obviously had plenty of plot holes but handled them spectacularly well. Given the amount of movies that I have seen that involve time travel, I have come up with this equation: Time Travel = Plot Holes. This is a universal equation that is never escaped, but it does not mean that any movie that involves time travel will be brought down by the subsequent and unavoidable plot holes. Minority Report did not suffer from its necessary plot holes and neither did the timeless Back to the Future series (which has FINALLY been released as a complete set and which no respectable movie collection could possibly be without).
My esteemed colleague and close friend Christopher Brown (see his brilliant reviews at http://us.imdb.com/CommentsAuthor?625436) points out one of these plot holes in his review of Minority Report, but makes the mistake of suggesting that, given the nature of the precognition and of the crime itself, Anderton's murder should never have been predicted since it did not entail premeditation. Sorry, Chris, but you've missed the boat on this one. The only thing that this does is bring up the fact that it's impossible to tell where precognition starts. It could be argued perfectly well that the pre-cogs played a part in their own precognition. They predicted that Anderton would commit the murder under the circumstances that he would have been watching the thoughts of the pre-cogs and seen that he would commit murder, and then obviously sought to find out for himself how he could have been expected to commit a murder against a person he has never heard of. In this case, if he had called in sick that day, all of this would have been avoided. But he's the best at what he does, he has personal reasons for wanting to stop murder, he does not slack off, he does not call in sick. John Anderton was predicted by the pre-cogs to commit murder because he was at work that day.
The action in the film comes from the possibility that the whole prediction of Anderton's murder might be what is called a `minority report,' where the pre-cogs disagree on something that is going to happen. If he can prove that only one of the pre-cogs came up with the vision that he was going to commit a murder, it might cancel out the entire prediction because it is unreliable. On the way to this goal, we are presented with everything from a tremendously dedicated investigator (played brilliantly by Colin Farrell) to some amazingly creepy but strangely accepted identification spiders that scan John's implanted eye in one of the more uncomfortable scenes in the film.
Minority Report is one of the best and most unique thrillers to be released in years. It is the conglomeration of such a dizzying array of films that it is difficult to contemplate them all at once. We see elements of action films, futuristic thrillers, crime films, science fiction, and of course, the influence of Stanley Kubrick is never far off. There is even, especially in the later portion of the film, a heavy influence on the soundtrack by Bernard Herrman, who was the composer for most of Alfred Hitchcock's films, among many others. It's always nice to see such a respectful homage like that, and it is only one of the many things that makes Minority Report yet another addition to Steven Spielberg's extensive list of high-end films (the last of which was the spectacular A.I.). The only thing I can think of that holds Minority Report back from joining Spielberg's list of timeless classics is that it does not have the scope as far as its target audience as such films as E.T. and Jurassic Park. However, despite not having quite as large of a target audience, Minority Report stands as a strong entry in Spielberg's growing list of great films.