Steven Spielberg’s new film, “Minority Report,” may be appropriate just now. Just as our attorney general is reporting that we will hold someone indefinitely for crimes he may commit in the future, along comes a film about a pre-crime division of law enforcement in America.

“Minority Report” is set in the year 2054, when a pre-crime division has been formed in Washington, D.C., and the murder rate has rapidly fallen. With the help of three psychics, the police can now determine when a murder will occur, and they can send a special unit to prevent the crime from ever happening. 

The system seems foolproof to those involved until one of their own, John Anderton, played perfectly by Tom Cruise, is accused of a future murder. At the heart of the film is a great murder mystery with all the twists, turns and surprises one might expect.

The film is a whodunit, and while some may be able to predict the culprit early on, the real mystery is in tying up all the loose ends so that this complicated film makes sense. Spielberg does an excellent job making sure the attentive viewer finds full satisfaction in the resolution to this labyrinth of murder, heartache and betrayal.

“Minority Report” is more than just a good story. This is artistic filmmaking at its best. Visually, this film is stunning. From the effects, to the sets and costumes, the viewer is shown startling images that seem grounded in reality, but reaching to the future. Tom Cruise, who often has been a superstar first and a great actor second, delivers another great performance, and anchors a nearly perfect cast. Though this film is not quite as moving or brilliant as “Schindler’s List,” Spielberg has added another film to his canon that will be studied, praised and cited often in the years ahead. 

The most important reason to see “Minority Report” lies in the questions it raises. Many of these are spoken in the film; others are to be discovered by the minds of the viewers. Is American society headed in a direction where potential criminals are arrested before acts are committed?

Crime becomes not what one does, but what one is contemplating. Some would say that this is already happening with our fight against terrorism. Others might say it happens with racial profiling. The opponents of hate crime legislation say that is an attempt to legislate thought.

Even those who advocate posting of the Ten Commandments in schools and courthouses should realize that the commandment against coveting is, in essence, thought crime legislation. One could build a case that some of the other commandments are as well. Society may never reach the era politically or judicially that is depicted in “Minority Report,” but the film certainly offers food for thought about how easily and quickly the slope could become slippery. 

“Minority Report” is the best film released so far in 2002. It is filmmaking at its best and most creative. It is storytelling and character development as we seldom see in popular films today. Most of all, it is thought-provoking and possibly prophetic, as all great science-fiction is.

In the midst of summer blockbusters, Steven Spielberg has successfully delivered a rare film that should fill the theater seats with bodies, and fill the minds of many viewers with ideas to ponder as they experience “Minority Report.”

Roger Thomas is pastor of NortheastBaptistChurch in Atlanta.

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence, brief language, some sexuality and drug content.

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writers: Scott Frank and Jon Cohen (from a short story by Philip K. Dick)

Cast: John Anderton: Tom Cruise; Agatha: Samantha Morton; Director Burgess: Max von Sydow; Danny Witwer: Colin Farrell; Gideon: Tim Blake Nelson.

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