So, I rode out to see it, and here's my review:
I really liked this movie.
I would put it in the same category as "Gattaca", in that it is a serious exploration of the effect of various technologies on our society. It qualifies as real "science fiction" rather than an action movie with sci-fi trappings.
I thought the script was tight - the final resolution of the movie, the big showdown - brought all the various plot points together into a great climax, one where the "villain" was totally outfoxed... and yet he found an alternate resolution. How often do you see a movie where the story is that carefully constructed?
What's even more interesting to me, is the way they tackled the Ashcroftian future where the poor live in grotty hovels, deprived of even basic rights to privacy, while the elites live in lofty spires, replete with astonishing luxuries. The scene with the spiders was brutal - just a few seconds of a glimpse of various lives in the sprawl, and yet we see that they are so accustomed to the intrusion and violation of their homes by the police that they barely interrupt arguing, sleeping, loving - to have their identities scanned.
Even today there are identicams placed in public places, identifying YOU against your will. Can "Minority Report"'s view of the outcome of that technology be far from the truth?
Underlying the distopian view of Ashcroft's America is the fundamental question of Free Will vs. Determinism. Despite the squalor and oppression of the future (and the identicams come to represent more than just oppression, but indeed the very forces of determinism) - the heart of the story lies in discovering that we do have Free Will.
The action scenes were good, but not overbearing. Even more so, Tom Cruise's character shows the effects of those scenes for the rest of the movie - he's covered in bumps, scrapes, bruises and abrasions. How often do we see that? The chase scenes were certainly thrilling - particularly the rocket-pack part. And can I just tell you how very much I want one of those jet packs?
The movie wasn't without flaws. I didn't like the ink-washed look of the cinematography, which was always blue and faded, like old photographs. I didn't particularly buy Cruise as a drug-addict, either. For such an edgy part, he's too clean-cut, too easily smiling. I suspect a different actor would have leant more authenticity to the role, and brought a more real sense of anguish to Anderton's loss of his son. Here's a man who's driven to a chemical addiction that he must keep secret in a police-state... all while dedicating his life to preventing crime. That's a pretty driven guy, with some pretty hefty dark secrets... and I don't think Cruise pulls it off. Someone like Bruce Willis would have been better suited for the role, I think - someone more obviously on the jagged edge, someone, in essence, more believably screwed up.
But it's the little throw-aways that make this movie great - that make it real science-fiction futurism. The club where people go to live out their fantasies - we get a thirty second glimpse of the sorts of things people want to live out, and it's completely believable. The way that cars dock with apartments in mile-high skyrises, as traffic streams by on the outsides of buildings - the fact that there are only four playgrounds left in D.C.... the vast difference between the Neo Victorian whitebread blandness of Georgetown, versus the horrific squalor of the neighborhoods - the strange medical technologies, and the cracked doctor who peddles them. (Did anyone else notice that the mad doctor was the same actor as the Gunnery Sergeant in "Windtalkers")
I liked this movie. It was a grand science fiction movie, with a fascinating plot, and tons and tons of thought put into it. I give it Two Rings - a must-see in the theatre, and in the top list of my fave sci-fi movies.