[box cover]

Minority Report

DreamWorks Home Entertainment

Starring Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton,
and Max von Sydow

Written by Scott Frank and Jon Cohen
Adapted from the short story by Philip K. Dick

Directed by Steven Spielberg


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Review by D.K. Holm                    


To ask an obvious question yet again: Have DVD supplements finally gone too far?

It's not that the idea of supplements is bad per se, though there really are those DVD buffs who are happy with a really good anamorphic transfer of a hard-to-find film and don't give two hoots about the added bells and whistles. It's that all too often the added value has no value. There are numerous exceptions. Surely the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the, if not the best, DVD releases ever, and not just because of the movie but thanks in part to the care given to the supplementary material.

We know that the studios have fully embraced the concept of DVDs when the supplements are just as heavily advertised as the core movie. DreamWorks hawks Minority Report by proclaiming that the added value on this disc was "two years in the making!" Yeah, well, so was the movie, which I think was a tad harder to put together.

So, two years in the making — for this?

Don't get me wrong. I think that Minority Report is a fine film, perhaps Spielberg's best film since Jaws, which is also a truly great American movie. And I am on record as being one of the few public commentators on movies who admits to being an admirer of Tom Cruise. I love the look of Minority Report (while not being the biggest fan of Spielberg's reliance on DP Kaminski), its narrative tightness (even though it is over two hours long), its blend of action and ideas.

I love the opening "precrime" sequence, in which actor Ayre Gross is a sad sack whose plight in this film within the film raises more moral implications about the Precrime Unit than any of the subsequent discussions between other characters. I like the film also as a variation on themes prominent in the movies of both Spielberg (kids) and Cruise (masks). And then there's the whole ambiguity of the ending sequences: Did they "really" happen, or is the "happy ending" all dreamt by Anderton while in containment? After all, as the containment unit manager (Tim Blake Nelson) says, being "haloed" is "kind of a rush. They say … all your dreams come true."

In terms of flaws, the only annoyances include the vulgarity of the humor (the food mix-up in the kitchen), the weird names — Witwer, Anderton, Lamar — some of which come from Philip K. Dick's original story, and the performance or presence of Kathryn Morris, a DreamWorks regular who is a little too TV movie-ish for my personal taste in the thankless role of "the wife," and who doesn't even rate a mention on the poster.

Yet, just on a cinematic level, look at how brilliantly written, acted and staged is the simple conversation between Cruise and Max von Sydow 35 minutes into the film. Aside from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, it was the best film of 2002. But now having slogged through two hours (at least twice) of supplementary material on Disc Two of the Minority Report DVD, I can say that Disc One is a fine addition to anyone's collection. Disc Two is a throwaway. If the consumer wants to wait for a single-disc release of this movie, he or she won't miss anything. If they want to know how the film was made, back issues of American Cinematographer and other magazines offer complete accounts.

Turning to the extras raises the perennial issue of why Steven Spielberg doesn't record commentary tracks. After the overwhelming packages (at least on the surface) of A.I. and this film, it's clear that Spielberg prefers the control, which means editing, that he can exert over a set of documentaries and a video interview. In a sense, this is admirable. The director doesn't want to spoil too much of the magic of his films. On the other hand, with a film as politically voluble as this one, the viewer grows curious as to what he was thinking.

In the end, this is a colder DVD release than LOTR. The craftsmen obviously take pride in what they have done individually, but there is no sense that they loved the overall project, something which is communicated on the LOTR set. There's no sense of a celebration of the work. We learn a lot about the making of the film, that's true. But most, if not all of the pleasure, is going to come from seeing, re-seeing, and pondering Spielberg and Co.'s story, action, and ideas.

*          *          *

Minority Report comes in a set of two single-sided discs (the first is dual-layered, the second single-layered). The festivities commence with Disc One:, which offers a superb anamorphic transfer (2.39:1) of the film. Kaminski intentionally goes for a grainy, bluish, and bleached-out look, and it works perfectly for the content of the film. Audio buffs have three choices, comprising DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby 2.0 Surround — and it's safe to say that sound production is spectacular. Audio also comes in a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in French, and the disc has English, French, and Spanish subtitles . The animated, musical menu offers 24-chapter scene-selection for the 146-minute movie. This opening menu also lasts 37 seconds and constitutes a trailer for the film you have already decided to buy — an annoying delay in the proceedings.

Disc Two also has a lengthy opening-trailer-menu, which stalls the viewer while he's trying to get to the good stuff. After that, the supplements come in six large divisions. They consist of "From Story to Screen," "Deconstructing Minority Report," "The Stunts of Minority Report," "ILM and Minority Report," a "Final Report" that is a combined pair of video interviews with Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise. And then there's an "unofficial" whole other big segment called "Archives." Aside from the annoying opening "trailer," the disc, as is typical, comprises one long two-hour documentary that is needlessly broken up into its constituent parts. As is well known, this is done by studios for financial reasons, but the LOTR disc did at least offer a "play all" feature. The disc comes with French and Spanish subtitles, and closed-captioning.

All this material is directed and edited by Laurent Bouzereau, who usually works for Universal, and who did all those great little docs on their Hitchcock discs. This material is iffy. But realistically, how uncontrolled is this stuff going to be, given that the world's most popular actor and director are in charge? In large part, this disc is easy to navigate, particularly when we get to the stills sections. But within the documentary section the layout is a little confusing and hard to see. The menus are in widescreen, but the documentaries are full frame, though within that full frame the docs are in a (probably matted) widescreen presentation (if that makes any sense).

Part One, "From Story to Screen" is broken into two parts, The Story, the Debate (9:34), and The Players (9:26). The first gives a thumbnail sketch of how the creators came together to adapt Philip K. Dick's story, and the second how it was cast. Kathryn Morris receives almost more screen time in this "making-of" than she does in the movie.

Part Two, "Deconstructing Minority Report", has five subdivisions. First is The World of Minority Report: An Introduction (9:20), a mundane summary of the movie. Second is Precrime and Precogs (8:19), which is about how they designed and shot the Precrime unit offices. The Spyder Sequence (5:23) explains how the animators came up with the mechanical little "point men" who do reconnaissance work in hazardous locations. Precog Visions (4:51) shows the guys who have done one of David Fincher's credit sequences explain how they developed the "look" of the precogs' psychic home movies. Finally, in Vehicles of the Future (5:10) the boys in the house get to find out about the automobiles in the movie.

"The Stunts of Minority Report" comes in three parts: The Mag-Lev Escape (2:58) The Hoverpack Chase (3:00) and The Car Factory (2:47), all spectacular sequences, the last one based on an old idea that Hitchcock had often wanted to do (though that goes unmentioned). The important thing we learn is that Cruise did as much of his own stunt work as possible.

In Part Four, "ILM and Minority Report", the unholy union between Spielberg and George Lucas is explored on a minor level. The parts are all self-explanatory: Intro (4:31), Holograms (3:09), Hall of Containment (3:09), Mag-Lev (3:12), Hovercraft and Hoverpacks (3:08), and Cyberparlor (1:55). ILM does some great work in this film, and this breakdown gives an adequate summary of what they had to do to achieve their effects.

Finally, in Part Five, "Final Report" (3:57), Spielberg and Cruise make concluding happy talk about working with each other. What's amazing is that they actually seem sincere and say interesting things about working with each other.

Despite this barrage of material, there are still a few things missing. I would like to have known who developed and/or directed the commercials that pepper the film, especially the one that occurs about 14 minutes in — a commercial that does a lot of effortless scene-setting. It's pretty convincing stuff. Also, there is nothing on this disc about the gross eyeball sequence, in which Anderton gets his orbs changed. But most of all, where is the Charlie Rose-style round table debate on the implications of the movie? I could have used an hour or more of that.

There is an unofficial "part six" called "Archives" which contains a substantial amount of further information about the film's making.

In Production Concepts there are almost 300 pre-production sketches, in both B&W and color: "Precrime" (31 screens), "Hovership" (16 screens), "Hoversuit" (15 screens), "Hall of Containment" (28 screens), "Spyders" (10 screens), "Precog" (43 screens), "Cyberparlor" (8 screens), "Buildings - Architecture" (22 screens), "Roadway Systems" (13 screens), "Vehicles": Mag-Lev (28 screens), Sports Car (19 screens), and Extras (10 screens), "City Apartment" (23 screens), "Greenhouse Plants" (19 screens), and miscellaneous "Objects" (6 screens) from the world of Minority Report.

Among the few interesting features on this disc are the three Storyboard Sequences, which are B&W, musical, animated, and in some cases are accompanied by the film's dialogue: "Mag-Lev Sequence" (2:07, with dialogue) "Alley Chase" (3:36, with dialogue) "Car Factory" (3:19).

Next is a set of three trailers for the film in increasing running times (1:25, 1:46, and 2:03). They are a cunning study in providing information about a film in coherent increments that build excitement. Also added on is the advertisement for the Activision video game version of the movie (1:37).

Cast and crew credits are much more extensive here than usual. Cast bios include Tom Cruise (14 screens), Colin Farrell (4 screens), Samantha Morton (3 screens), Max von Sydow (11 screens), Kathryn Morris (6 screens), Lois Smith (an actress with almost as many films to her name as von Sydow, but who gets only two screens, four less than DreamWorks creature Morris), Peter Stormare (7 screens), and Tim Blake Nelson (9 screens). Filmmaker bios include those on Steven Spielberg (8 screens), writer Scott Frank (4 screens), co-writer Jon Cohen (2 screens), producer Gerald R. Molen (2 screens), producer Bonnie Curtis (2 screens), DreamWorks exec Walter F. Parkes (4 screens), Janusz Kaminski (4 screens), visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar (3 screens), production designer Alex McDowell (4 screens), editor Michael Kahn (3 screens), costume designer Deborah L. Scott (2 screens), and John Williams (13 screens). In terms of reading matter, at the end there is the film's original Production Notes for reviewers (23 screens).

Finally, there is a negligible four-page folding insert with chapter titles, production notes, and ad for six other DreamWorks discs. It all comes in a dual-DVD slimline keep-case.

— D.K. Holm

Disc One:

Disc Two:



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