BBC3: Saturday 22 August, 9pm
In 2054, ‘precrime’ cop Tom Cruise works with a sophisticated precognition system that can identify murderers before a crime has taken place. Consequently there has not been a homicide in Washington DC since 2048, the year precrime was introduced. An infallible system, Cruise thinks – until he crops up on a screen depicted in the act of shooting someone he’s never heard of, never mind met. Steven Spielberg’s stunningly realised futuristic thriller is taken from a story by Philip K. Dick, the writer whose weird tale Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? became the classic sci-fi movie Blade Runner. Minority Report is full of the satisfyingly paranoid themes that infused Dick’s prodigious output, dark and crazy ravings that suggest the author could best any conspirator when it comes to suspicious minds. Casting a chilly blue sheen over the fugitive Cruise’s desperate attempts to prove his innocence (of a crime he has yet to commit), Spielberg shows that the future is not a happy place, a destination not to be trusted. The precrime convictions result in prison sentences, even though the perpetrators are arrested before they have carried out the acts envisaged by the ‘precogs’. Intent is flimsy evidence, and Spielberg is clearly disturbed by such a prospect. Especially when the issue of identity can be blurred and drastically manipulated by criminal forces: in grisly punning scenes that are both sardonically amusing and appalling, Spielberg gives new meaning to the concept of ID. At the film’s heart, though, lies the compelling question of predestination: even if we know our future, can we change it? In pristine and perturbing images, Spielberg plunges pellmell into this fateful whirlpool, never losing sight of Dick’s pulp-fiction philosophy. The future? You can keep it. Amid the singing cereal packets, shopping malls with interactive billboards and all the other highly intrusive technology, it’s old-school evasion tricks – a bunch of balloons, a sea of umbrellas – which effect escape. The allusions to the cinema of Hitchcock are plentiful but the nightmarish tone and lurid grungy detail suggest Spielberg had Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil uppermost in mind.