In Defence Of... is the first of various new weekly strands designed to bring you closer to the films we love, the people who make them and the stars who front them. Barry kicks off a series defending the overrated, unloved or just plain misunderstood movies that for we think need to be stood up for by championing Stephen Spielberg's early noughties sci-fi flick Minority Report. Question is...do you agree?
Minority Report is a movie that doesn’t need a defence. It portrays a not too distant future with plausible accuracy and just the right amount of realism. Its world is totally inhabitable and instantly believable. The film’s reality isn’t that far removed from our own and there is enough integrated futurist technology that all the best sci-fi since Blade Runner has borrowed. It doesn’t just feel real, for all intents and purposes it is real. Dystopia with a box-office sheen. Noir with a Spielberg twist. The washed out, beautifully realised visual style perfectly complements the atmosphere. We buy into this world. Immediately. How can we not when it looks this good.
What tickled me about Minority Report was the slow realisation (on perhaps my third viewing) that I actually really – no really – liked it. Having seeing it on initial release I brushed it off as a watchable, entertaining slice of Spielberg effortlessness – much like his other 2002 effort Catch Me If You Can. I could not have been more off the mark – credit where due – this is a substantial slice of modern Hollywood box-office. Perhaps one of the best of it’s kind in recent years.
Colin Farrell goes toe-to-toe with Tom Cruise in screen performances that (once you get over the fact that you’re too cool to admit it) are actually very good. Tom manages to subdue his, well, overt “Tomness” – even if it surfaces occasionally throughout. Farrell does the young pup to a tee, Max Von Dydow is gleefully malevolent and Lois Smith has a wonderful turn as Dr Iris Hineman, a retired pioneer of the Pre Crime Program.
Above all, the involving, satisfyingly complex story is absorbing and, although it flags a little towards the end, the pace is cracking throughout.
Spielberg’s status and iconic early output will always leave his most recent efforts wide open to backlash, but with Munich and Minority Report (and to a lesser extent the underrated War of The Worlds) he has crafted a fine body of later period work. Here, he is firing on all cylinders. It is undoubtedly his best cinematic exercise of the last decade and is his most fully realised vision since Saving Private Ryan. As such I find myself in the odd position of championing a Tom Cruise fronted blockbuster. But ask yourself this – if all blockbusters were as big, clever and involving as this would any of us care who fronted what? Of course not.