Factor in timing, pace, plot, and what you see unfolding, this could be the best-ever Spielberg. It’s neither warm nor cuddly but tells a Phillip K. Dick story with great poise while making good use of Tom Cruise’s frat boy bewilderment.
Cruise is Detective John Anderton (a widower; his family was murdered) who employs three amniotic savants (precogs) and digital technology to circumvent crime before it happens. Suddenly, PreCrime’s top-gun is charged with plotting a murder. Now, he’s on the run through a ravishing sci-fi landscape (mechanical spiders are a deft touch). Desperate to defend himself, Anderton kidnaps precog Agatha (Samantha Morton) and the two uncover a vast conspiracy. Cruise’s nothing-to-lose Anderton is a superior character, as is his FBI counterpart Danny Witwear (Colin Ferrell). The chase and escape scenes alternate between the raging and the mesmerizing.
Philosophically, the story is about gauging intent. Spielberg nods at film history by casting the Bergman stalwart Max von Sydow as PreCrime Director Burgess. Though Spielberg is eternally seduced by happy endings, this remains the most engrossing all-audiences science fiction movie since Ridley Scott’s original “Alien.”