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Cinema as Sermons - Minority Report

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

Cinema as Sermons - Minority Report

Steven Spielberg has a gift like many other directors, Malick, Kubrick, Ridley Scot to name a few. He can tell a story and pull us into it with such precision we lose track of time and reality. And of course this is part of the gift of literature and by extension films.

This film was inspired by a short story by Philip K. Dick. Philip K Dick (December 16, 1928 - March 2, 1982) was an American science fiction writer and author of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” the basis for the 1982 film Blade Runner.

He wrote thirty-eight books that are currently in print. Dick also wrote several short stories and minor works which were published in pulp magazines. At least seven of his stories have been adapted into films. Dick received some recognition during his lifetime by fellow writers as Stanislaw Lem, Robert A. Heinlein, and Robert Silverberg sadly Dick received little general recognition until after his death.

Dick's posthumous influence has been extensive going beyond literary circles into Hollywood filmmaking. Films based on Dick's works include Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (adapted twice: in 1990 and in 2012), Minority Report (2002), A Scanner Darkly (2006), and The Adjustment Bureau (2011). In 2015, Amazon produced the multi-season television adaptation The Man in the High Castle based on Dick's 1962 novel, and in 2017 Channel 4 began producing the ongoing anthology series Electric Dreams based on various Dick stories. Time magazine in 2005 named Ubik (1969) one of the hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923.

Philip K Dick puzzled over the difference between mental illness and religious experiences. He claimed that, while recovering from dental surgery in 1974 his consciousness was startled by a mysterious flash of pink light. After which he had visions of abstract paintings and engineering blueprints. He saw scenes of ancient Rome surrounding him: ‘I looked around and saw Rome! Rome everywhere! Power and force, stone walls, iron bars.’

Being mentally ill seems to help when writing mind-bending science fiction. Dick's stories often revolved around the nature of reality, schizophrenia, paranoia, drug use, religion, and hallucinogenic imagery. Reports of his drug use are related to his pre 1970 stories which apparently were written while high on amphetamines. There is no doubt Dick was self-medicating and at the time of his mental illness’s treatments were few and people like Dick would not adhere to treatment regimens. His mental state, drugs and imagination would combine off-world colonies, cold war politics, Tibetan theology and other theologies, advertising jingles, psionic powers, and whatever other domestic drama he could come up with.

Dick was a brilliant and gifted writer with severe mental health problems that made his life difficult.

Philip K Dick died just before Blade Runner movie was released and the Hollywood gold rush began. The most profitable time of his career was from 1965-1968, at that time he was only making about $12,000 a year.

The year is 2054 and futuristic skyscrapers can be seen along-side the famous Washington monuments and houses from the 19th century. Anderton presides over an operation controlling three "Pre-Cogs," precognitive humans who float in a flotation tank, their brain waves monitored by computers. They're able to pick up distant thoughts of premeditated murders and warn the special police unit, who move rapidly to arrest the would-be perpetrators before the killings can take place.

Tom Cruise is John Anderton, chief of the Department of Pre-Crime in the District of Columbia, where there has not been a murder in six years. Soon we see it appears, there will be a murder--committed by Anderton himself.

The plot centers on a glitch in the visions of the Pre-Cogs. Promoted as infallible "the Pre-Cogs are never wrong," we're told, "sometimes ... they disagree." The dissenting Pre-Cog is said to have filed a minority report. In the case of John Anderton the report is crucial, otherwise he is a certain candidate for arrest as a pre-criminal. Of course, if you could outsmart the Pre-Cog system, you would have committed the perfect crime...

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Agatha (Samantha Morton) gives Anderton (Tom Cruise) and his ex-wife (Kathryn Morris) a powerful vision of their missing son, but the moment is broken by the arrival of the pre-crime unit.

There is a consistent Christian allegory throughout the movie concerning the world's notion of the perfectibility of man and Justice Dept. official, Danny Witwer, is concerned that all men are flawed (sinful): Detective. Anderton is given new sight in the course of the movie, requiring faith not works. The forgiveness at the end of the movie and the overt, stated faith of Justice Dept. official Danny Witwer enhance the allegory of the movie. There is some confusion by references to spiritism and suggestions of channeling. Overall the movie is moving and thought provoking.

Watch the movie. It is one of Spielberg’s best!

Read the article-the book is available from Amazon

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