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Film Reviews | Regular Feature Minority Report "The fact that you prevented it from happening doesn't change the fact that it was going to happen," declares John Anderton (Tom Cruise) near the opening of Minority Report (Spielberg 2002). This comment is an early example ofthe film's intellectual paradoxes, which proliferate through numerous epistemological knots. As the narrative, based on a 1956 short story by Philip K. Dick, moves through some truly extraordinary futuristic scenery, Anderton's comment becomes a locus of the age-old debate about whether human life is a matter of free will or determinism that Dick and, now, Spielberg's creative team give an intelligent, marvelously inventive twist. In 2054, three Pre-Cogs (precognitives named Agatha, Arthur, and Dashiell in tribute to crime writers Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Dashiell Hammett) have been harnessed or, as the film makes evident, enslaved, by a governmental agency known as Pre-Crime to foresee homicides. Their visions allow ChiefAnderton and his police force not only to prevent murders before they occur, but also incarcerate the "future offenders" in vertical, coffin-like tubes that allow the criminal's mind to remain active. As Gideon (Tim Blake Nelson), the bizarreprison's warden/caretaker, says ofthe detainees' mental state, "There's a lot going on in there." There is also a lot going on in Minority Report, whose story is so complicated that it defies concise summation. The basic premise, culled from Dick's story, is that the Pre-Cogs foresee a murder committed byAnderton, who becomes a fugitive from his own organization while attempting to prove his innocence. Along the way, he must receive an eye transplant, break the sole female Pre-Cog—Agatha (Samantha Morton)—out of Pre-Crime Headquarters so she can help him in his quest, and deal with the still-painful memories of losing his son to an unknown abductor six years before the film's events. The sheernumber ofplotpoints, reversals, and characters makes Minority Report one of the most ambitious and labyrinthine film narratives since JFK(Stone 1991). Minority Report succeeds in this daunting taskby balancing its science-fiction premise and all the complexities that screenwriters Scott Frank and Jon Cohen have added to Dick's already Byzantine plot with nicely crafted action scenes, a mature and well-acted emotional center, and an adroitly direct meditation on the nature of civil liberty that resonates loudly in a post-9/1 1 America. That the US Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense have both publicly exhorted the American people to participate in preventing future terrorist crimes is only the most obvious reference that the film engages. More importantly, the film mines the territory that Dick's fiction made so fertile in more than forty novels and 100 hundred short stories, asking two fundamental questions: what is an authentic human being and how can we define objective reality? As with Blade Runner (Scott 1982), based on Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream ofElectric Sheep ?, Minority Report creates a visually remarkable future world that progressively distances its detective protagonistfrom all the certainties ofhis life. Contrary to some reviews, Minority Report does not destroy the integrity of Dick's short story, which, while certainly paranoid, is not as darkly pessimistic as some readers claim. The film significantly expands and extrapolates the premise, most notably by splitting the story's Anderton, a middle-aged bureaucrat who heads PreCrime , into Cruise's police chief and Max von Sydow's Lamar Burgess, the retiring director of Pre-Crime. This allows for a fascinating dynamic as Burgess (undoubtedly a tribute to author Anthony Burgess, whose fiction, like Dick's, sees state power as pervasive and pernicious) both helps and hinders Anderton's efforts. This father-son dialectic has a strong subtext of generational conflict that, despite the apparent warmth between the two men, resonates with the short story's conflict between the aging Anderton and his replacement, Witwer. In the film, Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) is a Justice Department investigator who has severe doubts about Pre-Crime's effectiveness because, as he comments, "We're incarcerating people who have committed no crime." Herein lies the film's great strength: its...