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Cruise Keeps Audience Guessing in Futuristic Thriller <i>Minority Report</i> - 2002-06-29

Tom Cruise stars as a police officer framed for murder in a futuristic thriller adapted from a short story by Philip K. Dick and directed by Steven Spielberg. Alan Silverman has a look at Minority Report.

Tom Cruise plays John Anderton, chief of the Washington, D.C. police "pre-crime" unit. With information from a trio of genetically gifted (or, some might argue, mutant) "pre-cognitives" whose visions include brief glimpses into the future, Anderton's elite squad arrests people for the crime they are about to commit.

Despite debate over constitutional and human rights questions, chief Anderton has total faith in the system until the "pre-cogs" present a vision of the chief himself as a future murderer.

On the run from his own officers, Anderton is determined to prove he has been set up and is not (or, rather, will not be) a murderer.

Stories by author Philip K. Dick have been adapted into landmark sci-fi films including Blade Runner and Total Recall; and star Tom Cruise says Minority Report, though first published almost 50 years ago, tackles difficult issues relevant to the current debate over liberties versus security.

"When I read the short story it just had great potential," explains actor Tom Cruise. "It was very cinematic and would be a very challenging film for a director to make because you are creating this world yet it has great characters for actors to perform. All those elements were something that I thought would be very challenging. It's not a 'walk in the park' kind of film to make."

"The major thing was the story: just getting all the story lines," adds Director Steven Spielberg. He convened a panel of scientists to develop the film's near-future technology; but at heart, the story is basically a mystery.

"I never realized that when you tell a mystery story you put a lot of balls in motion and you have to keep them spinning for a long time. There was a lot of work on the script: more work than I've done for many, many years on a screenplay," Spielberg confides. "That's why the script was in development for two and a half years. In terms of production, there was another year spent on conceptualizing the film. In order to do that, I put together a 'think tank' of what I would call futurists who came to a local hotel here in Los Angeles and for three days they talked about what will 50 years in the future be like. I didn't want to go 200 years in the future, I wanted to know what's in the foreseeable future, right around the corner. What's the environment going to be like? What are the transportation systems going to be like? What's medicine going to be like? What will the communications tools be? What will the computers look like then?"

Much of the Minority Report world is digital imagery. The high-tech computers, soaring skyscrapers and flying automobiles are special effects so Tom Cruise spends a good deal of his on-camera time acting amid settings and with hardware that is not actually there.

"It's a lot like things I used to do as a kid when we traveled around a lot. You create. You get right back to that time when you a child and playing. It doesn't bother me. I take it as a challenge and think it's kind of fun," says Cruise.

But the actor finds the basic premise of the film thought provoking: do our choices make a difference or is our fate a predetermined fact?

"I don't believe in fate," he emphasizes. " I believe that you make your own fate in terms of your life; but if we were in a situation where we had pre-cognitives and they were able to predict the future, I think that's pretty cool. I think it would be interesting to know what's going to happen in the future and then you can have a choice. I like that."

Minority Report also features Tim Blake Nelson, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton and Max Von Sydow. The muted, often-ominous cinematography is by Janusz Kaminiski and the musical score is by another frequent Steven Spielberg collaborator, John Williams.