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  • Widescreen 2.40:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
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  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
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Minority Report

Dreamworks/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 139 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Though his forays into the realm of science fiction had been remarkably successful in the early years of his career, Steven Spielberg wasn’t about to “do a Lucas” and specialise in a single genre after the success of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. Instead he happily divided his attention between audience-pleasing blockbusters like the Indiana Jones trilogy or the first two Jurassic Park movies on one hand, and an apparent desire to create Classic Cinema on the other. That latter mindset started off on the right track with The Colour Purple, stalled a little clunkily for a time (with the terrific but relatively unpopular Empire of the Sun and a well-intentioned attempt to do soft’n’fuzzy Hollywood with Always), and then clicked into creative high gear with Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Suddenly Steven Spielberg the crowd-pleaser was also Steven Spielberg The Auteur, a career shift that seems to have opened up a whole new world of possibilities for the filmmaker. And ironically, it’s now that he chooses to return to the genre that helped make him famous in the first place - sci-fi. But this time around, it’s defiantly sci-fi with a difference. The Kubrick-initiated A.I. was like a statement of visual intent, with the defiantly dirty visual style of Private Ryan taken to new extremes in the midst of a world that was part out-there Kubrick dream and part classic Spielberg fantasy. With Minority Report, also set in the future but a much more action-oriented film than its predecessor, the image manipulation goes further again, every trick in cinematographer Janusz Kaminski’s ever-expanding arsenal employed to the hilt along with a visual effects budget large enough to pay off several small countries’ national debt and still leave change for lunch. It makes for an interesting battle of wits - Spielberg knows how to mount an action-adventure and does so masterfully, but by no means conventionally.

The best thing about the future, of course, is that you can do pretty much whatever you want visually and not lose credibility. Spielberg knows this, and cannily slots a flamboyant sci-fi tale (based on a short story by Philip K Dick) into a traditional film noir frame - and then expands it into a cautionary tale about the dangers of sacrificing too much privacy and liberty in order for the world to feel safe.

John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is a crack detective with the “pre-crime” unit of the city of Washington’s police in the year 2054. “Pre-crime” is responsible for one crucial task which has single-handedly rid the city of serious crime; using it as a tool, detectives can see into a person’s future, watching the crime they’re going to commit before they actually commit it. The suspect can then be arrested and charged with the crime they intended to commit but didn’t quite get around to yet. The city’s never been safer, and it’s all made possible by a gifted trio of “pre-cogs” who are kept locked in a room by the police, their only function to see future crimes. And unfortunately for Anderton, the next one that they see is a murder committed by… John Anderton. Fairly sure that he isn’t in the mood for killing anyone, Anderton presumes he’s being set up - but proving your innocence when it comes to something you haven’t done yet is a tough ask, and this leaves him with only one option - to run from his own elite squad.

It’s ironically timely; this is a story that could easily have been inspired by the security paranoia, suspicion and overkill, particularly in the US since the September 11th terrorist attacks, where many have been locked up without charge for crimes they might commit. Of course, Minority Report was actually written and shot prior to September 11th; it’s not the first time, though, that science fiction has come scarily close to predicting present-day fact.

Co-writer Scott Frank is no stranger to the noir mentality, and seamlessly works that genre into what’s otherwise a visually striking and adrenaline-powered futuristic action picture. But along with Jon Cohen he’s also found an emotional centre to the story, one which rings true without descending into mawkishness (the old-fashioned noir structure helps greatly here) and which also gives the story real forward momentum. We’ll refrain from giving too much away here, but suffice to say that a key scene involving Anderton and pre-cog Agatha (played by the brilliant Samantha Morton) is of an emotional intensity almost unheard of in a film of this type. It’s one of the last of many, many surprises along the way; be prepared to switch your brain out of neutral, try and stop staring in ga-ga amazement at the remarkable visual world that Spielberg and his design and effects teams have created, and marvel at what a stunning, inspired and well-rounded piece of entertainment and art this film is. He may not be popular with the South Park guys, but Steven Spielberg, after all this time behind the camera, is still finding new ways to gobsmack an audience.

  Video
Contract

Minority Report marks the first time in over ten years that Spielberg has opted to use the wide “scope” frame for a feature film, and makes full use of it throughout Minority Report. Though it was filmed in Super 35 and will work well enough in the inevitable 4:3 version, the composition throughout is clearly done with the ultra-wide frame in mind, and fans of the film will only want to see it on DVD. Presented at the full 2.40:1 ratio and of course 16:9 enhanced, the transfer is stunning - as long as you are aware that the brutal colour, contrast and exposure manipulation going on here is deliberate. With the now-familiar “bleach bypass” technique very much in evidence and copious grain throughout (though not as much as seen during A.I.) the fast-moving, visually devastating images here present a real challenge to the DVD medium. Fortunately, the encoding is flawless, with not a problem to be found anywhere (you expected anything less from Dreamworks?) The entire capacity of the dual layered disc is used for the 139 minute film, the average and peak bitrates providing “superbit”-style performance without the buzz-word or the price premium.

  Audio
Contract

Though it defaults to a ear-pleasing Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, this disc - authored in the US by the Dreamworks people - also contains a half-bitrate DTS track which delivers that little bit of extra goodness that prompts people to spit out words like “depth” and “definition” and the like. In reality, 99% of the population won’t hear a scrap of difference between the two tracks, and comparing them is made doubly difficult by the disc’s deliberate blocking of on-the-fly track switching. The main audible difference between the two is simply a result of the different LFE handling of the two competing systems, though the DTS track is also slightly louder and, if you’re listening forensically to the music score, just that little bit cleaner on high frequencies. Overall, we’d call it a tie. They both sound terrific. Note that this film was, theatrically, a Dolby EX and DTS-ES presentation. That matrixed extra rear channel is, of course, still encoded here even though the appropriate flags have not been set during disc authoring.

The mix is, of course, state of the art. Gary Rydstrom was here.

  Extras
Contract

Supplied as a two-disc set to give the movie all the breathing room it demands on its own platter, this is actually not quite as extensive a “special edition” as you might have expected - though to be fair, the bar’s been raised so high by the likes of Lord Of The Rings recently that it’s hard not to be a teensy bit disappointed even when the studio goes to the trouble of putting together a fascinating 90 minute documentary on the making of the film.

The problem is that, like the A.I. special features disc (put together by the same man, Laurent Bouzereau) this nice long documentary has been sliced into bite-sized segments to give the illusion of there being a mountain of stuff to get through (and, presumably, to reduce costs royalties-wise).

Reviews of the US release of the disc indicate that the extra-features material here, all shot on 16:9 video, were presented anamorphically on that edition. Whether or not that’s actually the case is hard to verify simply by putting trust in overseas reviews, but we can tell you that the PAL release presents all of these segments as letterboxed 4:3, which is something of a shame (especially as the menus that link to the segments are all fully 16:9 enhanced!)

There’s little point in tediously accounting here for every little chopped-up segment on this disc; suffice to say that as you navigate your way through you’ll see a making-of doco that’s often informative, often fascinating and very regularly self-indulgent, which is split into five main categories: From Story To Screen (self-explanatory!), Deconstructing Minority Report (an interesting look at various design elements), The Stunts Of Minority Report, ILM And Minority Report and finally Final Report (a philosophical wrap-up chapter).

Alongside this hefty but frustratingly chopped-up documentary (you too will learn to hate the animated menus!) is an Archives section, which contains production art, the inevitable storyboard sequences, cast and crew biographies, production notes, three theatrical trailers (all 4:3 letterboxed with stereo sound, disappointingly) and a trailer for the Activision game (!).

Overall, a good - but by no means great - set of extras. In a way, the film’s such a unique piece of cinematic art it feels almost superfluous to see how it was all done, but there’s enough here to satisfy the curious.

  Overall  
Contract

Showing no sign at all of becoming boring with middle age, Steven Spielberg has crafted one of his finest films - and possibly the best film of 2002 - in Minority Report. A film that not only stands up to repeated viewings but virtually demands them due to its intricate detail and immersive visual world, it’s a must-have on DVD, where it’ll be played on a regular basis.

Fox’s DVD presents the movie flawlessly, and that’s what counts; the extras disc is good, but not quite good enough to justify the hefty $40 recommended retail price for this title (though you'll get it much cheaper by shopping around); we’re not too pleased about the trend of high-pricing two-disc sets when many single-disc releases have had more extras content at no price premium. Still, if you want a pristine copy of the movie itself, it’s currently your only local option.


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      And I quote...
    "...not only stands up to repeated viewings but virtually demands them due to its intricate detail and immersive visual world; it’s a must-have on DVD."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • TV:
          Panasonic - The One
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB870
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Panasonic
    • Surrounds:
          Jamo
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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