19 years of Minority Report: the cancellation of crimes in the society of control

19 years of Minority Report: the cancellation of crimes in the society of control

19 years of Minority Report

On June 19, 2002, exactly 19 years ago, Minority Report, a dystopian sci-fi film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell, was shown for the first time in cinemas. We are in the year 2054. The city of Washington has practically canceled any form of premeditated crime thanks to a special police force called Precrime which, exploiting the premonitions of three special individuals, the Precogs (short for the term "Precognitive"), succeeds to avert crimes before they even happen.

The Precog visions are stored and rearranged by the Precrime in order to obtain a kind of rather realistic footage of the crime showing murderer and victim and how it will happen. murder, together with precise details that lead back to the exact place and time, so as to stop the perpetrator of the crime even before he commits it. Despite the fact that it is based on simple premonitions, it seems a very reliable system, and this is exactly what Captain John Anderton, head of the section, also thinks.

But what would happen, if the person in charge of the next was Captain Anderton himself to be foiled?

Minority Report: from story to film ...

The Minority Report was born as a story inserted later in the collection Le presenze invisibili - Tutti i racconti (The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick). Dick is one of the greatest dystopian science fiction authors who, with his stories, stimulates readers to reflect on even particularly delicate issues such as destiny and its immutability, the impotence of its protagonists and a rather dark vision of the future. br>
The collection was first published in the United States in 1987, but arrived in Italy between 1994 and 1997; however, the story The Minority Report dates back to 1956.

The film of the same name freely inspired by the story by Philip K. Dick (you can buy the Minority Report Blu-Ray here on Amazon) saw the light exactly 19 years ago, on June 19, 2002. What perhaps not everyone know is that, initially, Minority Report was supposed to be the sequel to Act of Force (Total Recall). The Arnold Schwarzenegger movie was released in 1990 and spawned the 2012 remake of Total Recall; it too is inspired by a short story by Philip K. Dick, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, from 1966.

Another curiosity concerns the names that have been chosen for the three Precogs: Agatha, Arthur and Dashiel. These names are not accidental, but they are homages respectively to the writers Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dashiell Hammett.

The film is directed by Steven Spierberg and the cast boasts the presence well-known actors: Tom Cruise plays the main protagonist, Captain Anderton, and antagonist Danny Witwer is played by Colin Farrell, who got the part for which Matt Damon and Javier Bardem were also considered; both actors rejected it (Damon was then filming Ocean's Eleven), as did Meryl Streep, who was to join the project.

Ian McKellen was supposed to play Lamar Burgess, president of Precrime and superior of Anderton, while Cate Blanchett was offered the role of Precog Agatha.

Some intriguing cameos should also be mentioned. Director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky, both with Tom Cruise) and actress Cameron Diaz briefly appear in a scene set inside a train carriage; Crowe plays the man who recognizes John Anderton. A decidedly funny detail is that, in the same wagon, Paul Thomas Anderson (The Oilman, Magnolia, the latter with Tom Cruise) should also be present, but not even the director could say where.

So, both directors worked with Tom Cruise, as did Cameron Diaz, who starred with him in the aforementioned Vanilla Sky, directed by Crowe.

… on the television series

Dick's Tale has also inspired a television series of the same name consisting of a single season of 15 episodes, which aired in 2015. The series links directly to the events narrated in the 2002 film Minority Report and is chronologically placed in 2065, 10 years after the film.

The Precrime Department has now been closed for 10 years, but one of the Precogs, Dashiel , he continues to see visions of future murders in his mind; for this reason, the boy chooses to return to collaborate with the police, despite the fact that his visions are always partial, as they are shared with his twin brother Arthur: this makes the visions of the two Precogs complementary.

In praise of dystopia

Like any good dystopian story written by self-respecting Phlilip K. Dick, even Minority Report raises a whole series of sociological, philosophical and moral reflections, and in this the dystopian science fiction is certainly an excellent half. Dystopias are the exact opposite of utopias: that is, they represent a dark, negative, absolutely undesirable vision of the future. Some examples may be, in addition to the work examined here, V for Vendetta, Equilibrium and The Man in the High Castle, a television series based on The Swastika on the Sun, a Ukronic dystopian novel. by Philip K. Dick dated 1962; in the ukronias an alternative version of the Earth is represented in which some historical facts have followed a different course (in the case of The Swastika on the Sun, Nazi Germany was the winner of the Second World War).

The Man in The High Castle

Narratives of this type are distressing and dark, even visually: often, in fact, the favorite color palettes in works such as dystopian films and TV series point towards cold shades such as blue, black and gray, to convey even without the use of words the dark and heavy atmosphere that thus permeates not only the stories, but also the characters and settings.

In the case of Minority Report, not only the colors are cold, but a process called bleach bypass has been performed on the film, which allows them to be desaturated. The final result is therefore cold, aseptic, with very little vivid colors:

Faced with all this, one would almost wonder why to read or look at a dystopian work. The reasons, in truth, are many.

Dick's dystopian stories focus on the representation of societies that severely limit individual freedoms, dedicated to continuous and constant control (a bit like it also happens in 1984 by George Orwell ), without ever forgetting a careful psychological analysis of his characters, their psychoses, mental illnesses and the consequences of addiction to various drugs. In this, some reflections of the author's life are revisited: Philip K. Dick himself was in fact diagnosed with a mild form of schizophrenia, due to which he was prescribed amphetamine, from which he soon developed an addiction.

Often, then, dystopian narratives are not ends in themselves, but they want to push us to reflect on delicate issues that give rise to moral dilemmas in a different way than utopias, but complementary to them: utopias, representing a desirable society where peace reigns, they push us to reflect on what to do to pursue that goal of justice and equity, while dystopias warn of the probable harmful consequences of nefarious behavior. Good (utopia) and evil (dystopia) are, as always, two sides of the same coin.

The "trial of intentions" and the critique of the society of control

The dilemmas raised by Minority Report are moral and speculative-philosophical. Let's start with what, probably, most catches the eye: is it morally right to arrest someone for a crime he has never committed and will never commit?

Assuming that free will exists, people arrested shortly before committing a crime should always have another choice. The system seems to work, but, as Anderton's case demonstrates, a person can be pushed to act in such a way that he then finds himself doing what he had predicted: the prophecy comes true, therefore, because someone acts to make it come true. But we'll talk more about it later.

Minority Report's dystopian future shows us a state that intrudes in every way in the lives of its citizens with different control devices such as the retinal scanner, revealing a society in which people give up most of their freedoms and privacy by virtue of at least a proclaimed protection. Director Steven Spielberg stated that this is a reference to the massive control systems employed by the United States after the events of September 11, 2001.

Minority Report and the paradoxes

Let's talk now about the dilemma and the paradox concerning the existence of free will. Precog Agatha says that, since Anderton knows her future, she can change it: therefore, free will exists. However, the very fact that he knows he is accused of the murder of Leo Crow, a man he does not even know, seems to create a whole series of interlinked events that will lead precisely to Crow's death.

In sociological terms, we are faced with a self-fulfilling prophecy, comparable, as far as the theory of time travel is concerned, to the principle of self-consistency of Novikov (on this principle they are based, in a very strict and coherent way , the first two seasons of the original Netflix Dark series).

The self-fulfilling prophecy consists, in the case of Minority Report, in the fact that the protagonist of the story finds himself in the conditions of having to be forced to point a gun against a man he had never seen before precisely because of the fact that, having been accused of his murder, he runs away and, in his escape, meets his intended victim.

In short , the belief that An derton will stain himself with Crow's murder produces a chain of events that culminates with the protagonist who is almost forced to kill Crow because the latter is mistakenly held responsible, by the Precrime agent, for the disappearance, which took place years earlier, of his son.

This also leads to another consideration: everything Anderton does to try to avoid being caught and having to come face to face with Leo Crow in reality only causes what he wanted to avoid; also in this case, we can draw a parallel with what happens in Dark for the principle of self-consistency, according to which, since time is immutable, any action taken to change its course will end up in nothing or, worse, to cause the event that we wanted to avoid (for example, when in Dark Claudia discovers that her father will be killed she hurries to go to him to protect him, but in doing so she will be the one to kill him).

And then, in light of the fact that these are images that appear in the minds of the Precogs and which are then interpreted by the Precrime system and agents, how reliable are the premonitions on which the entire Precrime system is based? If they always were, it would mean that those events cannot be changed, thus canceling any possibility of the existence of free will and leaving room for the only, immutable destiny; but if they weren't always, then who knows how many innocents would have been unjustly arrested! Although, technically, all the people arrested by Precrime are innocent, as we have seen above. Therefore, free will does not seem to exist, but here the title of the story and the film comes to our aid.

The Minority Report, or Minority Report, consists of a rather rare case in which the three Precogs they do not all have a unique vision of a certain future event, as one of them sees a different scenario. This means that, in the case of a Minority Report, it is possible that the conditions that will lead to a crime will not occur, or that in any case the crime will never be committed. This seems to be the only way out to a otherwise unavoidable fate.

The perception of self and the dehumanization of others

We conclude this article on Minority Report with some considerations concerning the way in which Captain John Anderton perceives himself, the Precrime and the Precogs upon which the system is based.

Once arrested, prospective criminals are tried by a remote jury who merely looks at the images produced by the visions. of the Precogs and to listen to the reconstruction made by the agents of the Precrime. These individuals are, in fact, sentenced without even the possibility of attending their own trial, of defending themselves from the accusations. This simply dehumanizes the condemned, but Precrime does the same with the Precogs as well.

Anderton himself argues that, in order to be able to do one's job better, it is better not to think of the Precogs as human beings, given the inhuman condition in which they live: isolated in a tank suitable for sensory deprivation, functional, in turn, for the creation of an aseptic environment completely devoid of external stimuli for the three young people, a condition deemed necessary for their visions are free from external factors and influences and, for this reason, more objective and reliable.

The Precrime stores, rearranges and elaborates the visions of the Precogs, who live their lives completely isolated from the rest of the world. world, forced to see in their minds the repetition of hundreds of scenes of violence and murders, with no way out. They are slaves to the system that exploits them and that divulges completely false news to citizens about their living conditions, as if to justify that horror by omitting it, for the highest purpose: to sacrifice the freedom of three individuals to save many, many more. . But is it morally right to do so?

If for Captain Anderton criminals and Precog are hardly people, when instead he discovers that he will commit a murder his perception of himself is so consolidated that it does not waver, and precisely the refusal towards a reality that portrays him as a murderer then leads him to have greater self-awareness, which will then lead him to the conclusion that, of course, once the images produced by the Precogs are arranged in the right order, the system will reveal that the facts will go otherwise and that he will never be a probable killer: his confidence in himself and in the system are unshakeable. However, he will end up doubting Precrime, in whose efficacy and infallibility he believed so much, because he would have committed a mistake with him. Doubt thus creeps into his mind, but Anderton questions the system, never himself.

In short, the perception that the protagonist has of himself is solid, while the one he has of Precog and probable future criminals is only sketchy, thus revealing its strongly self-centered and individualistic nature. Anderton is not immune to pain, which leads him to collapse at the thought of what may have happened to his son, also due to the abuse of neuroin: the theme of drug abuse returns, as in other works by Dick. and its consequences.

Control and dehumanization are therefore two tools through which Minority Report wants to represent a dystopian and cold future, which is further underlined and emphasized by cold and desaturated colors.

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