Movie Summary

Minority Report commences by showing a crime occurring in reverse. The crime consists of a man walking in on his wife cheating on him with another man. The movie then flashes to a glass ball with the involved parties’ names engraved on it rolling down a clear tunnel. The ball is red which signifies that a crime of passion is about to occur. The film then cuts to PreCrime Captain John Anderton (Tom Hanks) inside the PreCrime facility. Inside the facility there is a controlled room called “The Temple” where three bodies are floating in a substance. Through the discussion of others in the facility, the audience can deduce that the three floating bodies, known as Precogs, are able to predict future murders. The Precogs, Agatha, Arthur and Dashiell, are considered “divine” and supposedly cannot feel pain. The unit utilizes pattern recognition filters and optical tomography to see what the Precogs are seeing. Therefore, the PreCrime unit can send police to stop the crime right before it occurs and arrest the would-be perpetrator. The images that the Precogs conjure up help the unit determine where the location of the crime will be occurring. PreCrime is only utilized in Washington D.C., but there will be a vote soon regarding implementing the system nationally. The city’s murder rate has been reduced by nearly 90% and the unit is very motivated to make the program a national initiative.

The movie then cuts back to the original crime shown at the beginning, in which the PreCrime unit intercepts the crime right before it happens. They arrest the man for a future double murder at the specified time and date to which the man exclaims that he wasn’t actually going to murder them. However, the unit puts a halo, a brain controlling piece of headwear, on the man’s head and takes him to prison. The movie then shows Anderton buying illegal drugs from a drug dealer to help cope with life. Anderton returns home in a self-driving car to his very futuristic home to watch home videos of his son Sean. The audience then realizes that he took the drugs to cope with the loss of his son and the divorce of his wife.

The following day at work the system is being audited by Danny Witwer, a member of the United States Department of Justice. Witwer takes a look around, and then states that the major flaw in the system is that “it’s human.” After Witwer leaves, Anderton is still in the room with the Precogs when Agatha jumps out of the water and grabs him showing him a past murder. He realizes that the murder was of a woman named Anne Lively, and the murderer was never found. Out pops a brown glass ball then, signifying a premeditated murder. To Anderton’s disbelief, he sees himself killing a man named Leo Crow in 36 hours, who he has never seen before. Anderton tries to run and his coworkers are obligated to arrest him. The Department of Justice also found his illegal drugs, making him even more wanted by the law. An epic man hunt ensues, but Anderton is able to escape. He goes to find the woman who invented PreCrime, Dr. Iris Hineman. She tells him that the creation was a science invention gone wrong, and that she didn’t mean to invent PreCrime. She wanted to help abused children who dreamt only of murder, but soon realized the dreams were all future murders. She then tells Anderton that “Precogs are never wrong but occasionally do disagree.” This results in a minority report, meaning every so often someone has two alternate futures. Anderton is shocked by this and instantly feels remorse for any falsely accused people he has sent away to jail. She tells Anderton that he must go retrieve the minority report which is stored inside Agatha, the strongest Precog, to prove his innocence.

Anderton then goes to the black market to get an eye transplant so sensors will not recognize his presence inside the city. He breaks into the Temple, where the Precogs are held, and kidnaps Agatha. He brings her to a man who can download her minority reports, but she does not have a report for him. Anderton then realizes that Leo Crow is the man who took his son, and therefore he was not set up, as Anderton knew he would kill the man who took his son. After going face-to-face with the Crow, Anderton chooses not to kill him, which leads to Anderton’s discovery that Crow was planted, and did not really take his son.

While trying to understand the case, Witwer realizes by looking at the wave patterns in the lake that the murder that took place was 2 separate instances. Someone faked the murder so the unit intercepted it, then right after that, the murderer actually killed Lively, and the Precogs assumed it was just a duplicate vision. Witwer tells Lamar Burgess, head of the system as well as Anderton’s good friend, who shoots and kills Witwer. Burgess was the one who planted Crow, but because Agatha was kidnapped, the Precogs cannot see visions so no one stopped the murder of Witwer. Anderton recognizes that he was set up using the memory of his dead son. While at his ex-wife Lara’s house Anderton is apprehended and arrested. Anderton had mentioned Anne Lively to Lara before being imprisoned, so Lara mentions the name to Burgess, who nonchalantly acts like he’s never heard of her. Right before Lara leaves, Burgess slips that he knows she drowned, which Lara never mentioned to him. Lara springs Anderton out of jail and they find out that Lively was Agatha’s mom and Lively wanted her daughter back. Lamar needed to kill Lively without the Precogs seeing so he promised he’d reunite her with her daughter, but actually killed her, making the murder vision an echo. During the PreCrime press conference where Lamar is being honored, a red ball then pops out with Anderton’s and Burgess’ name on it. It shows that Burgess will kill Anderton which puts Burgess in a difficult situation. If Burgess kills Anderton, it proves the validity of the system, but Burgess will go to jail forever. If he doesn’t kill Anderton, it proves that the system is flawed and unreliable. Anderton tells Burgess that he has a choice what happens, and Burgess ends up shooting himself. The PreCrime experiment is then abandoned, with all prisoners pardoned. Lara becomes pregnant again, and Agatha and the twins are set free where they can live in peace.

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The Effect of Thinking Philosophically about Films

On the surface, Minority Report is an action packed film full of futuristic technology and unexpected plots twists. However, when one looks at the movie from a philosophical standpoint, he or she is able to gain a much richer understanding of the film and its themes. The theme that is primarily emphasized in the movie is whether human lives are predestined or if each person has free will to control their life. In the movie, it appears to the audience that Anderton is only trying to defy the system in order to gain his freedom. However, when taking a closer look, one can see that this idea can be applied to our everyday lives as well. It is easier for us as humans to believe that our fate is predetermined, but in reality that belief can act as a simple escape for those too lazy to make a change in the world. Regardless of what the stimulus is, everyone has a choice on how they want to react to it. If you see a homeless person on the street, or someone who dropped a bag of groceries, it is much easier to say that it’s their problem, and continue on with your own life. In the movie, Burgess knew about the minority reports, yet found it easier to keep that information unknown even when it was unfair to numerous innocent citizens. Instead of admitting to his faults, Burgess was selfish and didn’t want to harm the progress the system had made by telling everyone the truth. Spinoza references self-preservation in his writing, explaining that the desire to survive is innate. He states “Each thing, in so far as it is in itself, endeavors to persist in its own being” (Spinoza III P6). According to Spinoza’s theory, it is natural for Burgess to act in the way he did in order to protect himself. This, however, does not atone for his actions, as the number of people who were hurt by his actions is incalculable. This movie prompts the audience to ask themselves if they want to take control of their lives, or let the surrounding environment take control of them. Additionally, the movie reminds the audience of the inevitable consequences to every action. Anderton faced the consequence of holding onto so much grief that he was almost willing to murder for it. He also paid the consequence of blindly accepting the PreCrime system and asserting that it was perfect, when in reality the human error had not been accounted for. Burgess paid for his lies, which ultimately cost him his life; a price that most likely wasn’t worth it in the end.

By doubting predestination, people are able to find control in their own lives. This philosophical point of view gives power to the viewers and reminds them that they should always exercise that control. Similar to Descartes ideas on doubts, it is important to begin with the foundation of doubt. While the abilities of the Precogs are based on the senses of the Precogs and the PreCrime officers, the predictions are assumed to be true. No one, other than Witwer, feels the need to doubt the system, which is what leads to its termination. As Descartes encourages, doubt allows us to build up to conclusions that we can be certain of. He quotes, “And thus I realized that once in my life I had to raze everything to the ground and begin again from the original foundations, if I wanted to establish anything firm and lasting in the sciences” (Decartes 13). With this philosophical point of view, the viewers of the movie learn not only to doubt the system, but also to doubt conclusions they originally may have been sure of in their own lives. Thinking about movies in a philosophical manner allows the viewers to gain a deeper understanding of the content due to the fact that these philosophical theories are ones that can often be applied to a large portion, if not all, of the population. This effect is what allows movies to come to life for the audience and encourage people to make a difference in their own lives.

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Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minority_Report_(film)

Dr. Iris Hineman- Lauren Star

An integral character in the film is Dr. Iris Hineman, one of the creators of the PreCrime technology. Hineman enters the plot soon after Anderton is accused of murder, as Hineman’s green house is the first place that Anderton runs to. Anderton seeks her help, as he is in disbelief that he the Precogs are correct about his future. The role Hineman plays is a wise, and almost omniscient, point of view. She is one of the most knowledgeable people about the system, and also seems to be conscious of lessons in everyday life. She proves that she has knowledge of her reality based on the interactions with those around her. She sees the effect that she has on others, such as with the PreCrime system, which helps her create her reality. While speaking with Anderton, she mentions that she actually had no intention of creating the PreCrime system; it was simply a science experiment gone wrong. She only intended to help the children suffering from horrific nightmares. After the discovery that the Precogs’ dreams were future visions, she takes on a God-like power role. She alters the organic processes of life, and implements a system to intercept an otherwise natural course of action.

This parallels to William James’ thoughts in Pragmatism, where he discusses how the progress of science diminishes mankind’s importance. James asserts, “Man is no lawgiver to nature, he is an absorber” (James 12). In Minority Report, Hineman, though arguably inadvertently, tries to become a lawgiver and defies natural human law. Humans are animals, and animals are inclined to kill each other at some point for various reasons. By trying to redefine nature and the sequence of events, she mirrors a “Frankenstein” type of creator in the fact that she created something much more significant than she anticipated. Hineman, however, can be considered at fault for neglecting the desires of the Precogs themselves. Since she invented this system, she did not want to dismantle it immediately, even though there clearly were consequences for doing so. Agatha states in the movie that she did not want to be a Precog, but no one listened to her. Hineman brought her into this reality, and then eventually retired and left Agatha to fend for herself. James brings up a point in Pragmatism that speaks to the human reluctance to change our opinions and values once we feel we have developed something worthwhile. James writes, “The result is an inward trouble to which his mind till then had been a stranger, and from which he seeks to escape by modifying his previous mass of opinions. He saves as much of it as he can, for in this matter of belief we are all extreme conservatives” (31). Hineman wants to defend her system, and while she knows copious amounts of innocent people could be getting locked up, she does nothing to stop what she’s created. It would be counterintuitive for her to try and shut down such an impressive system that benefits majority of the society. She had complete knowledge of the minority reports, yet according to James’ theory, she couldn’t help but to protect her previous opinions about the system even though she knew they were flawed.

Although her character is not admirable for her apathy about known injustice, she gives Anderton valuable advice regarding his peers and the PreCrime system as a whole. Supporting her omniscient character style, she offers this guidance to Anderton, “You shouldn’t trust anyone. Certainly not the Attorney General who just wants it all for himself, and not the young Federal agent, who wants your job. Not even the old man who just wants to hold on to what he created. Don’t trust anyone. Just find the Minority Report.” Her warning is foreshadowing that Anderton must be very careful regarding who he believe are his friends and who are his enemies. Hineman can be admired for her original objective of helping others as well as providing insightful information to Anderton as he tries to prove his innocence. However, she negates this good will by her lack of commitment to fix the defects in the system she created.

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Photo Credit:

http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/minorityreport-loissmith.jp

Lamar Burgess- Maggie Mills

In Minority Report, Director Lamar Burgess has the most knowledge of his reality. Lamar begins the movie as John Anderton’s biggest ally. When Danny Witwer is investigating PreCrime, Lamar supports John and the system of PreCrime that John has created. John confides in Lamar when he discovers that Agatha’s vision of the murder of Ann Lively is missing. It is later revealed that Lamar is the one who killed Ann, but at this point he tells John to let it go. Lamar is dependent on no one further investigating this death. John’s discovery of Agatha’s missing vision is what Descartes would call his Archimedean point. John is sure of this piece of information and builds upon it to find out the truth. Until John reveals Lamar’s crime, Lamar continues to try to cover it up. When Witwer comes to Lamar having figured out that someone who works within pre0crime must have framed John for the murder of Leo Crow, Lamar tells Witwer that it was him. At this point, Lamar is no longer the only one to know what he has done. However, by killing Witwer, Lamar ensures that this information will not spread anymore. According to James, “truth lives, in fact, for the most part on a credit system” (James, 95). Until anyone else is able to prove that Lamar has framed John or that Lamar was the one who killed Ann Lively, everyone continues to believe that Lamar is a good man. Without any proof otherwise, Lamar’s goodness is what is accepted as truth.

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It becomes clear that Lamar killed Ann Lively so that Agatha could be used as a Precog and PreCrime could be successful. Each of Lamar’s actions had a purpose, and that was the end goal of his program being successful. According to Spinoza, everything has an end goal. Spinoza says that there is no end goal or purpose in nature, but humans can produce things that have a purpose (Spinoza, Ethics I Appendix). This is exactly what Lamar did throughout the movie as he deceived each of the other characters. Lamar killed Ann Lively and set up John so that PreCrime could continue under his power and spread nationwide. His plan involved murder and deception, all for the end goal of the continuation of the PreCrime department. Lamar created the end goal, but it was not something that would happen on its own. He had to execute this plan in order to create the end goal. He used his connections within the PreCrime department to do all of this and ultimately used the trust that he had established to get away with his plan. Spinoza says, “it is of the first importance to men to establish close relationships and to bind themselves together with such ties as may more effectively unite them into one body” (Spinoza, Ethics IV Appendix). Instead of creating a more stable system, Lamar used his connections to people such as Danny Witwer and John Anderton to mislead them and get away with his own crimes. However without these connections, he would have never been in the position to manipulate the PreCrime department.

John Anderton- Mark Donatelli

Though we are introduced to John Anderton early in the film, his true identity is all but obscured until he battles a crisis of self-perception that is not resolved until the closing minutes of Minority Report. Pre-Crime and its largest stakeholder Lamar Burgess undoubtedly tap into the vulnerability of Anderton, exploiting his past traumas to further his passion for the experiment. As the plot thickens, we begin to realize that Anderton’s self-perception has been adulterated by intentions of Burgess to ensure the long-term existence of pre-crime. What is most shocking about this near-future dystopia is how easy it was to transform the Anderton’s identity. By planting the faux murder of Leo Crow, Anderton goes from hero to outcast in a matter of minutes, exiling him from the world that once praised him.

This calls to mind the reflections in Martin Buber’s I and Thou, where he discusses how our identities are formed through others before ourselves. According to Buber, “The you encounters me by grace- it cannot be found by seeking” (Buber, 62). Upon seeing the precog’s vision of Leo Crow’s murder, Anderton leaves the precog division to attempt changing his future and current status as a criminal. This is an effective appeal to Buber’s philosophy of the relationship between ‘I and You’, in that Anderton cannot (and inevitably fails) to change his identity by himself. Thus it can be asserted that Anderton’s feeble attempts to alter his identity were destined for failure because only the ‘You’ can form the identity of the ‘I’.

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Therefore, only through his later encounters with Agatha is Anderton successful in changing his perception. Once again this is evidenced in Buber’s I and Thou when he contends that “Relation is reciprocity” (Buber, 67). Anderton, who was once advised to treat precogs as if they were not human, chooses to do the opposite and instead acts in reciprocity with Agatha, creating a mutual beneficial bond that ultimately forms more fitting identities for the two of them. With Agatha’s assistance Anderton finds Crow, and in a pivotal moment in the film’s plot, realizes that the killing was a suicide rather than a murder. In this moment Anderton is reassured of who he truly is through his encounter with Crow, an epiphany he would not have had otherwise.

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Though Crow’s very appearance in that apartment was based on deceit, their encounter, the imperative force that modifies the ‘You’ and ‘I’ in Buber’s philosophy, is what ultimately brings about the truth the Anderton’s identity. Later, in an ironic act of vindication just minutes after Burgess’ shining moment as the founder of the national pre-crime initiative, Anderton does what was done to him, altering the identity of Burgess in a split-second reveal of his murderous past. Burgess would have maintained his image as a visionary if no other ‘you’ had acted upon his identity, a true testament to the relationship of I and Thou. Therefore the film follows a plot that does not conform to a traditional revenge story but instead details a journey of self-rediscovery that bring Anderton back into the esteem of his peers.

Photo Credits:

discovermagazine.comirulan18.wordpress.com

 

Agatha Lively- Ken Panis

Agatha is one of the three Precogs, and is a key component to the “PreCrime”
divisions operations. As a Precog, she possesses the unique ability to predict the time, location, and scenario of the world’s various murders. This ability is invaluable, as the accuracy of her predictions validates the PreCrime division’s operations and asserts the existence of a deterministic society. Upon this assumption, the PreCrime division is able to implement various policies, which create the society depicted throughout the movie. It is evident that Agatha’s existence brings many questions about the existence of free will, and the duality between body and mind.

Born into a futuristic society, Agatha was donated to the PreCrime division by her mother Anne Lively. As part of the PreCrime division, she operates with the two other Precogs and is linked up to a machine, in which their visions are projected for others to analyze. Agatha is valued not for her body, but rather for her mind. Though her body is held in the containment pool, the main focus is on her thoughts. Descartes identifies this mind, body separation and asserts that the mind is of utmost importance. Descartes claims that the mind should seek to be freed of the body, and that this separation is key to true knowledge. The machine that Agatha is hooked up to facilitates this separation and allows Agatha to literally partition her mind’s images from her body.

Agatha’s visions provide true knowledge of reality. When the three Precogs predict a murder, their foresight is shown to the entire PreCrime division and is accepted as an inevitable reality. For instance, when Anderton is predicted to murder Leo Crow, the entire division truly believes that Anderton will carry out this prediction. Despite their previous trust of Anderton, no one can question this true knowledge, and therefore the entire division chases him endlessly. Agatha is assumed to have true knowledge of the world around her, and her ability to separate her body from her mind is vital to this concept of irrefutable knowledge.

Agatha’s predictive powers are highly dependent on the presence of the twins. When Anderton steals her from the PreCrime division, it is evident that the machines will no longer work without Agatha. Spinoza argues that individuals are exponentially more powerful when they work together. This emphasis on teamwork is vital for the machines operations, and without this aforementioned teamwork, true predictive knowledge cannot be obtained.

The futuristic society depicted in the Minority Report is highly dependent on the assumption of determinism. Agatha is able to repeatedly predict the future, and therefore her insights are asserted to be fate. Fore instance, her ability to predict the future saves Anderton from being capture on many occasions. Spinoza argues that free will is a falsity, and that all events take place out of pure necessity. According to Spinoza, all things are predetermined. Agatha’s predictive accuracy validates Spinoza’s claim and enables the entire PreCrime division to believe in the existence of fate. This assumption of predetermined actions creates a society in which eye scanners are placed everywhere, and actions are monitored constantly. Humans are not believed to be autonomous beings, but rather beings constrained by predetermined actions.

Agatha’s knowledge of reality is ultimately flawed. At the end of the movie, Agatha makes a final prediction in which Burgess is predicted to kill Anderton via gunpoint. Up to this point, all of Agatha’s predictions came to fruition; however, Burgess ultimately does not kill Anderton. This twist proves that Agatha’s predictions of the future are not rid of flaws. Agatha does not have true knowledge of the future, and her predictions are prone to error. This one mistake forces the PreCrime division to halt its operations, as determinism is proven to be false.

The Effect of Doubt in Minority Report- Danny Maher

The concepts developed throughout the film and the idea of PreCrime bring into focus the importance of doubt and the role that doubt can play in philosophy and film. Doubt is a theme of great importance throughout the film, and is also a theme that plays a prominent role in the philosophical world. Descartes is one of the most important and influential philosophers of the modern era and is often referred to as the “Father of Modern Philosophy” based on his work during the first half of the 17th century. In Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, the concept of doubt plays a significant role, specifically in his first meditation. Descartes states in his first meditation, “Even though the senses do sometimes deceive us when it is a question of very small and distant things, still there are many other matters concerning which one simply cannot doubt, even though they are derived from the very same senses” (Descartes,14). Doubt allows individuals to explore and question, making new discoveries of truth and certainty. Descartes, like some of the characters in the film, doubts the senses and whether they can actually be trusted. This doubt brings about opportunity for questioning and discovery to be made. In the film, the doubt which Danny Witwer has in regards to the validity and functionality of the PreCrime system leads him to investigation and discovery about the origins of the PreCrime system and the dark and concealed past of those who helped establish the system, including Lamar Burgess.

Descartes centers his first meditation around the concept of hyperbolic doubt and the idea that we must get rid of anything we can doubt when we are trying to establish certainty. This concept is essential in the film as the entire idea of PreCrime is based on the fact that there is in fact no doubt, and the future actions of criminals can be determined and prevented prior to the action actually occurring. The system of PreCrime and detaining criminals prior to actually committing a criminal act would not be plausible if doubt existed. For this reason, the absence and elimination of all doubt is essential to the nature and functionality of PreCrime. The need to eliminate doubt when trying to uncover the truth and certainty is exemplified in the film through the disagreement of the Precogs and the elimination of the report which is conflicting. The elimination of the minority reports from the Precog that disagrees expresses the importance of eliminating doubt in the PreCrime system. As Dr. Iris Hineman states in the film while discussing PreCrime with Anderton, “Obviously for PreCrime to function, there can’t be any suggestion of fallibility. After all, who wants a justice system that instills doubt? It may be reasonable, but it’s still doubt.”  As Descartes conveys with the idea of hyperbolic doubt in his meditation, it is essential to get rid of doubt when searching for certainty and truth.picture #1 movie blog

The desire to get rid of doubt in the quest for truth and certainty is conveyed in the film and is essential to the functionality of the PreCrime system as Hineman explains. If doubt exists in the justice system, the entire PreCrime system would fail as it would be injust to incarcerate or detain an individual who is yet to commit a crime if uncertainty remains regarding their intention to commit the criminal act in the future.  The philosophical ideas of William James also come into play when examining doubt and the role it plays in the film Minority Report. James focused on the idea that truth is made through experience. James states in Pragmatism, “Truth is made, just as health, wealth, and strength are made, in the course of experience” (James, 98). This concept of truth being derived from experience provides little room for doubt as the experience can’t be contradicted. This concept however, opposes the functionality of PreCrime as the system is set up to take down the criminal before the experience even occurs, bringing into question doubt and the role it can play in the justice system. Doubt also leads into discussion on perspective and the impact it can have on the PreCrime system and the functionality of the Precogs. For William James, perspective was an important aspect of the discovery of truth and had a major impact as he explained how it is most effective to obtain as many different perspectives as possible while attempting to discover the truth. The Precogs each provide unique perspectives on the different crimes that are going to occur in the future as each provide their own version of the story. However, the Precogs do not always agree on the story, causing the formation of the minority reports. Because the Precogs do no always see the truth in the same way and instead have different perspectives on the same event, doubt exists as a result of the disagreement and this is what forced the need for minority reports and the elimination of the perspective that was in disagreement. Doubt plays a significant role as a philosophical theme in the film Minority Report as it is central to the nature and functionality of the PreCrime system in the film. The concept of doubt has played an important role in the quest for truth, certainty, and knowledge and is examined from a variety of perspectives that relate to the film by various philosophers studied this semester including Descartes and James.

Photo Credit:

http://www.wired.com/2012/06/minority-report-tech/