First, let me say that I enjoyed much of Minority Report. The acting was excellent, as were the special effects.
Having said that, I feel compelled to talk about something that has not been thus far mentioned about the film: specifically, its contemptuous attitude toward the working class and the poor. This may sound like a quibble at first, but please hear me out.
Throughout the course of the film, the working class and the poor are treated either as convenient victims or as objects of ridicule, often simultaneously.
Let's begin with the initial chase, where all the police strap on their jetpacks and corner Cruise in an alley. Cruise grabs one of the cops, beats him half senseless, then uses the jetpack to rocket his way up the side of the building, the other cops in hot pursuit. All very nicely edited with deafening music to tell us we're supposed to be in suspense.
On the way up the side of the building, the cops and Cruise smash through a platform where a handful of workers are standing, doing their jobs, minding their own business. The platform is reduced to kindling and the workers fall off the platform toward the ground, which we are led to believe is quite a ways down. Were they hurt? Were they killed? The audience is apparently not supposed to care about these men's lives any more than they're supposed to care about the broken boards. This pointless little ballet of cruelty was put in for no other reason than to elicit chuckles from the audience.
But it doesn't end there. Soon Cruise and the cop smash through a window into the building itself--which we have been told is in a poor section of the city. They not only destroy the apartments of two innocent families, but in the process actually seem to hurt these innocent bystanders by throwing them against walls and such. Again, this is played for laughs.
Next we have the spider sequence, wherein we are treated to a faux-Rear Window recreation. One of the spiders scurries across the roof, and we are treated to:
- A poor couple fighting--their interruption by the spiders played for laughs
- A couple making love in a seedy room, whose activities--again played for laughs--are interrupted by the spiders, and,
- An old man being scanned by a spider as he is sitting on the toilet.
And all are put through this humiliation by a group of folks who are supposed to be the good guys.
Next we have the sequence where Cruise and the precog Agatha are being chased through the shopping mall. They escape into a service corridor where an old homeless man sits, begging for change. The precog tells Cruise to throw down some coins. He does, and the old man, on hands and knees, begins picking them up, only to be smashed to the floor as the cops break into the corridor and fall over him. Funny stuff.
Had this been the only instance in the film where a poor person was humiliated in such a way, it might have been pardoned, but it isn't; there are several examples of this contempt for the poor and the working class scattered through the film, many of them a bit more subtle than those listed here, but just as contemptuous.
What disturbs me about this is that--with the exception of the homeless man, whose humiliation arguably serves the plot--is that all of these slapstick assaults were not necessary to the story. They were choices made either by the screenwriters or the director (my guess is the latter) to give audiences something to laugh at. Had there been any philosophical arguments about class distinction introduced in the story line (the poor and working class are beneath We, the Protected), it might have been justified and--as distasteful as it might have been--would have served the underlying themes of the story.
The thing which makes it worse for me is the sneaking suspicion that these assaults and humiliations were put in the film without a second thought. They're working slobs, or they're homeless, or drug addicts, so who cares? (And by the way, for as pathetic and distasteful as drug addicts are presented to be in this film, isn't it interesting that our supposed hero's severe drug problem simply disappears ninety minutes into the movie, thus making him all the more admirable and his plight that much more compelling?)
For all the lapses in logic that have been debated here and elsewhere, I find it interesting that the film's lapse in humanity has gone largely unnoticed.