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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Minority Report
Tom Cruise fighting the Jet Packer
Minority Report

Steven Spielberg's latest film Minority Report starring Tom Cruise.

(Edited highlights of the panel's review)


MARK LAWSON:
Rosie Boycott, Spielberg and Cruise can make any film they want to, they have that power. Are you glad they made this one?

ROSIE BOYCOTT:
Yes, very glad. As summer blockbusters go, this was one of the best I've seen in a long time. It was dramatic and imaginative, and it had a lot of excitement with incredibly gory, weird scenes in it. Yet, there's a lot of things about movies that kind of let you down at the end. This is a really interesting, intelligent idea. Could you preordain crime? And in which case, what would it be?

Would the person really be a criminal, or could you have stopped them? There's masses of things where you longed for some intelligent dialogue to actually happen, rather than just thundering through. And there's lots of strange inconsistencies in it. You have three people lying in bath tubs, called the precogs. They are a bit like these old-fashioned soothsayers. They come up with someone's name, and the ball rolls out, and it's rather like the lottery.

You have this image of Mystic Meg somehow standing behind, and you hold this ball. Then the movie is continually inconsistent. You have the highest tech cars in the world that are going round and round in circles, and they go up and down buildings, and then the next scene you're in some wonderful little playground where there's a very old-fashioned roundabout going round.

You don't quite know the future Spielberg has got you in. It's as though when he gets a really good idea, like this wonderful moment where they've got newspaper headlines, and they're moving as the news changes and the weather changes. And you go, "That's wonderful", and then you're on to something else. It somehow doesn't quite add up, but I really enjoyed it.

MARK LAWSON:
Tom, Rosie talks about the internal meanings in the film which sometimes confuse, but externally it's interesting. They can't have known this, but to have released this film now, when you have politicians in America talking about pre-emptive arrests to try to stop things happening, it does give it an extraordinary power, I thought.

TOM PAULIN:
Yes, it has that premonitory quality which I felt "AI" had. I think it's even better. It is a kind of dream vision, there's a very visionary gentle quality to Spielberg, a horror of capital punishment which is very subtly brought into this movie.

MARK LAWSON:
Because the question is what if you got it wrong, and chose the wrong person?

TOM PAULIN:
Yes. And the whole question of free will. I went with a Catholic friend who has a deep interest in theology, and we debated questions of free will all the way home. It was very interesting in that way.

What worried me about it was the oppressive state, the corporate republic, which we're hearing about all the time. The way it invades the private life completely, and takes everyone over.

The great thing about eyes and identity, and an eye for an eye, is present in that, but Tom Cruise began to remind me of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber. With that sort of blank, fanatical Scotch-Irish quality. And then I thought, "What's happening here?". Then I began to think of Gore Vidal on Timothy McVeigh. Then I began to wonder whether Cruise knew what he was doing, because he's a blank actor, not a very talented actor, and I didn't enjoy him. But I do think Spielberg is wonderful.

MARK LAWSON:
I don't think Tom meant to suggest that Scots or Irish people are necessarily blank-faced psychopaths. Germaine Greer?

GERMAINE GREER:
Well, I didn't like it as much as either of my colleagues, I'm afraid. For me, the precogs were a camel. If I could swallow them, then what happened after that would be mere gnats. But I had a terrible time swallowing them. And they got worse as they went on.

There they are in a bath of proton milk, because we all know that life is in a Petri dish, so they're all put in the biggest Petri dish you could imagine. They're being kept alive by strange nutrients, and they're being filled with drugs, and their mental visions are being transferred to video. Fine, fine, the technology is all great, and that's the one thing that'll turn out to be true.

MARK LAWSON:
But it's not great, because they're just seaside psychics, really. They can't tell you what your uncle's name is, and suddenly these people are predicting every murder in Washington.

GERMAINE GREER:
Except that the name comes from somewhere, and ends up on the wooden ball. And who makes the wooden ball, and why couldn't they fake a wooden ball? It has so many blind spots. It starts with a single idea from a short story by Philip K Dick. That idea was, what if you could stop people murdering people.

What fascinated me was, and I'm not sure how deliberate this was, the vision of the technocratic society, where the technocrats live, hermetically sealed against the rest of the world. They are taken from their places of work to their homes, and the great thing is that underneath is the unregenerate society, where people live in filth and squalor, where they're thwarted and sick and angry. It's like the message of "1984". In order to survive his own system, Anderton has to go down into the filth. He has to be operated on by a man who sneezes snot all over his hand before he picks up the scalpel.

MARK LAWSON:
That's the joke about they haven't cured the common cold.

ROSIE BOYCOTT:
But didn't you think that also the film missed such a big trick, that all those people who were down there sneezing snot should have been complaining massively about this invasion of their civil liberties..

GERMAINE GREER:
: But that's the clever thing about the film. Because if you look at the way the society is evolving, the lower third, or what do we call them? The underclass. They can't make a noise that we can hear, because we're insulated against it, and I found that believable.

MARK LAWSON:
That's politically how they've sold it to them. We've taken away your liberty, but there will be no crime. I thought that was intelligent.

GERMAINE GREER:
You can feel like murdering people, but you won't actually murder them. ROSIE BOYCOTT:
But then of course the system itself is corrupt, because it's proved corrupt when they try to set up our hero Tom Cruise. TOM PAULIN:
It's the corruption of the elite, isn't it. MARK LAWSON:
We're talking about various things it might be about. One thing they're definitely trying to deal with, as Tom suggested is the question of predestination, almost theologically. But when they take on the big ideas it actually wrecks the plot. They can't do it, can they.

GERMAINE GREER:
They can't, because in the end they realise that they're locked into an anti-Christian posture. They come out with stuff like, "But you can't change it", when the whole movie says, "You can't change it." But of course, I'm not allowed to tell you what happens!

TOM PAULIN:
At the same time, by an act of free will, you can go against what is apparently laid down, that you will do or you're conditioned to do, and that, theologically, is very interesting.

MARK LAWSON:
I'm not sure it's as serious as that. There's something odd about Spielberg when you look at his films. He makes them in pairs. There were two thrillers, Duel and Jaws. Close Encounters and ET. Now A.I. and this, the companion film's very similar, but I thought this was more successful.

ROSIE BOYCOTT:
But much, much better. With all its flaws, it's a much more advanced film. I think it's based on a much better story. At least it got you talking. I did the same as you, Tom. When I left the film I found myself in an endless discussion about can you do this, can you have a choice.

TOM PAULIN:
The precogs are like a Balthus painting. It's a dream vision.

ROSIE BOYCOTT:
I loved the moment when the main precog says, "I'm really sick of the future." I thought that was great.

See also:

05 Apr 02 | Panel
18 Apr 02 | Panel
26 Apr 02 | Panel
18 Apr 02 | Panel
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