Minority Retorts

Post-Cogging Spielberg's Action Allegory

Think of real faces! Those of Peter Lorre, Steve Buscemi, or William H. Macy, all capable of suffering intelligently. Of Anthony Quinn—at any age!—capable of great suffering, unintelligently!! Richard Widmark or Rock Hudson!! I like to think of any of these people in the Anderton role, and especially Macy in that fabulous jet-pack chase scene Spielberg cooked up. And let's for a second consider that great mug belonging to the guy who gets frightened to death in the back alley in Mulholland Drive. The deep-dish face of this anonymous quaking actor conveys an oil tanker full of dread in every second of his brief appearance, as Cruise could never have done. May kindly God intervene—for this month only, just for a change—and slap this amiable chump onto the cover of every magazine in the world. —Guy Maddin


"Can you see?" Secret sharers Morton and Cruise
photo: David James/Dreamworks
"Can you see?" Secret sharers Morton and Cruise

Minority Report is the new lord of the allegories, dethroning that movie whose screenplay was basically rants from Society of the Spectacle with the word "Spectacle" crossed out and "Matrix" written in in crayon. The Domestic Policy Allegory could be summarized as "Profiling: not just for black people anymore." This sets the film's visual scheme: cool white surfaces for a future evacuated of color, aside from the African American Co-Worker™, and one brief shot of a black (natch) musician. And this in Washington, D.C. In said bleached future, we discover that profiling is wrong! And that they still have Miranda rights in 2054! It's the Fourth Amendment as film blanc.

The Foreign Policy Allegory comes to a head in a single phrase, a single shot at the climax: a head-shaven Tom Cruise—career-long flack for the American military—posed in a two-shot with the Washington Monument. Talk about a couple of cock-rocks. Together they confront the accented bad guy on a balcony, to the trillion-dollar question: "What are you gonna do now?" Invade Iraq? Buy more Twizzlers?

I'm not sure the director's lost-child shtick counts as anything but obsessive-compulsive disorder, though the oedipality is dizzyingly weird: Our hero doesn't gouge out his eyes so much as swap them, perhaps because he doesn't kill his father so much as assist his suicide. No such confusion stops the Allegory of Cruise, concerning whether charisma and enterprise can bend destiny into their own shape. As was noted about Vanilla Sky, the answer is "a little less every year."

Minority Report wants us to enjoy the spectacle while enjoying our own cleverness at uncovering something real. The allegories don't reveal social content; they help us imagine a movie about nothing is actually about something. Gimme Phil Dick's usual allegory, where some demiurge produces a scrim of appearances to pacify the public, and to disguise a reality too malevolent and/or banal to reveal. Into this is thrown some schmo who somehow glimpses through the veil, and believes he sees the truth behind the lie. In Dick this is the Allegory of Gnostic Messianism, and pretty compelling—disturbing, if a little repetitive. But for Hollywood, it simply becomes the Allegory of the Enlightened Audience, a sucker game in which we're compelled to enact the smarter-than-the-average-sucker role over and over. The mall sequence was pretty good, though. —Jane Dark

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