At its best, science fiction is the literature of ideas. True sci-fi (no, ”Star Wars” doesn’t count) is born when you extrapolate the wrinkles of modern society into a world where science and technology meld in unexpected ways. And so Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report glistens when it shows us his brilliantly visualized future of mass transport, advertising, firearms, and, most of all, law enforcement. Based on a story by Philip K. Dick, the grandfather of sci-fi paranoia, ”Minority Report” posits a tomorrow in which murderers are arrested before they kill, thanks to a trio of precognitive oracles.
”Report” merely touches on the moral and legal implications of a Pre-Crime police unit acting on psychic visions, but it offers what most sci-fi flicks don’t: food for thought. The film suffers only when it sacrifices the cerebral for the sensational: The wrongly accused Tom Cruise-on-the-run plot is Spielberg indulging his inner Hitchcock, and the warm-and-fuzzy ending is Spielberg indulging his inner Spielberg. Imagine how harrowing — and surprising — the film would have been if Cruise’s Pre-Crime chief committed the crime?