Steven Spielberg has never done sexy well in his films, but "Minority Report" feels wet, alive and throbbing.
Whatever different critics think of “Minority Report” overall, they seem to agree on the brilliance of one passage. It involves Tom Cruise standing before a strange set of screens with all the arrogance and magnificent intent of a great orchestral conductor. The sections of his orchestra are “glimpses” of a possible future, small stretches of something like film, delivered by “pre-cogs,” that he can conjure with, enhance, develop or wipe aside with the finality of a Balanchine who knows this or that pale girl can never dance for real. I don’t think Tom Cruise has ever been as powerful or as interesting. This could be the sexiest scene he’s ever done.
“Minority Report” is a long film — far too long for its own good — yet it never begins to offer a plain, practical explanation of how pre-cogs work. That doesn’t matter: The notion that, suspended in liquid, with heightened sensitivities, they can somehow perceive flashes or shots of what will happen is satisfactory sci-fi. They can do it because they can pick up intuitively on the intense, dark desires of people like us. That’s a workable concept, and it becomes much more in the image and haunted Auschwitz presence of Samantha Morton as Agatha, the most acute (and vulnerable) of the floating seers. Morton leaps across plausibility with the same ease Cruise has (and this, in turn, manages to establish how uneasy Cruise — cocksure or nothing — felt in “Eyes Wide Shut” and “Vanilla Sky”).
But here’s my real point. “Minority Report” is a Steven Spielberg film (from a story by sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, and with a decided nod to Stanley Kubrick). And Spielberg is all the odder as a guy and a creator in that he is so aloof to sexiness. Think of his work: Recollect the stress on the child’s imagination; the happy army of men against truck, destiny or shark; the rather meager role women play (think of that wife in “Jaws”!). Remember that Spielberg has been married to two actresses without ever coming anywhere near celebrating them on film — after all, even Kubrick, another lone cold wolf, couldn’t look at Kidman in “Eyes Wide Shut” without beginning to discover eroticism, at his time of life!
In other words, our most successful filmmaker, our “genius,” doesn’t really do “sexy,” which is one of the essential impulses or cravings in the history of film. But in “Minority Report” it begins to seeps in at the corners, like those undeniable spiders that have to read our eyeballs. Not that it’s conventional: Samantha Morton is a wonder, but she’s not sexy; and the estranged wife here (as well as being one of the most implausible characters) is a creature suffering from terminal neglect.
But what is sexy is the way imagery itself is made fluid, fluent, as pressing as come, as desperate to get into other similar fluids, to make a cut and a connection. I said that Cruise resembled a conductor or a Balanchine in front of his assembled cuts of film. But, of course, the real point of reference is to a film editor, clutching strands of film and swaying and experimenting in his efforts to cut or compose them into a whole. If you’ve ever seen a great movie editor, working as they do these days on video machines, then you’ve seen Tom Cruise in this film. In short: What excites, arouses and turns Steven Spielberg on in “Minority Report” — and does the same for us — is the prospect of filmmaking, of taking Shot A and joining it to Shot B so that the alphabet explodes, or becomes pregnant.
As we watch these shots on the verge of becoming recognizable sequences, we are watching simple cell structures yearning to mesh and build — the sexual thrill is that of beholding new life coming into being. And by far the most potent strain in “Minority Report” is the way the whole movie feels wet, alive and throbbing — just like the sexual organs in intercourse. Steven Spielberg has got sex at last, even if the inspiration has been the astonishing visual machines that he commands. “Minority Report” is a ruined masterpiece: All the Max von Sydow stuff is dumpable, from another, archaic film form. But as a wounded lyric on the way seeing has become our central song of desire, it is unforgettable.
David Thomson is the author of "A Biographical Dictionary of Film" (new edition just published), "Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles" and "In Nevada." More David Thomson.
More Related Stories
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Kaitlyn Hunt refuses plea offer, will go to court over high school relationship
- The secrets of cicada survival
- Nobody "needs" to rape
- Catholic Church in market for more exorcists
- Report: Nearly a quarter of all Americans struggle to afford food
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Boy Scouts to members: Just don't be a gay adult
- Anonymous rallies behind Kaitlyn Hunt
- Mistrial in penalty phase of Arias case
- My text blew up in my face
- Boy Scouts end ban on openly gay boys
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- Man arrested for sending Craigslist sex party to neighbor's house
- Greek yogurt, toxic waste hazard?
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11