The Black & White of Free-Will


By: Dominick A. Leone

Minority Report
Written by Scott Frank
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Minority Report
is an oddly misplaced mystery/action movie about a cop who is accused of a future murder. Set in early 21st century Washington, DC, the police have the ability to stop murders before they happen with the help of three psychics. They use technology to enhance the visions of these psychics, referred to as pre-cognitives (or “pre-cogs”) to generate not only the name of the victim and perpetrator, but also the evidence against them: hence the crime of murder is reduced to a black and white picture. Anytime the Pre-cogs’ visions are in conflict a Minority Report is generated, yet it is also destroyed except for what the pre-cog who predicted it remembers deep within their mind.

John Anderton is the Chief-of-Police of PreCrime, a department of the police that deals with murder and uses pre-cogs. His son was kidnapped, driving him to PreCrime, and preventing further loss of innocent life. His faith in the system is rooted his loss, and up to his accusation, unfaltering. His faith begins to falter when he discovers that there is missing data regarding some of the victims and perpetrators. This leads him to question the system, which eventually leads those in charge to arrange for his arrest for the future murder of Jim Crow. Convinced of his own innocence, and the infallibility of the PreCrime system, looks for evidence that he was framed, only to confront the choice of murdering a man (Jim Crow) that seems to have kidnapped and killed his son.

The over-riding theme in
Minority Report is the interplay between predestination and choice: do we have a choice in our destiny? This question is one with not only a religious undertone, but a moral one. Is there an alternative future for one forecasted to commit murder? What if you knew your future was murder? With John we have a person who is committed to upholding the law, and we should expect that he would not murder someone – especially if he had previous knowledge that he was to commit it. Yet by the end of the movie we learn that there is no minority report for him. He is destined to kill Crow. His choice is to arrest him for the kidnap and murder of his son, thereby restoring justice and creating his own future.

Human fallibility is the weakness of any system we create. The failings of PreCrime originate from the failings not of the Pre-Cogs, but of the humans that run PreCrime. The system ignored all minority reports, and because it orchestrated the results from the Pre-Cogs, was susceptible to tampering. Although we prefer to believe that the police are “the good guys”, the truth is that they are human – susceptible to their own faults and demons. John is only human, and after the profound loss of his son, turns to drugs to escape from reality. His wife, Laura, divorces him because she needed to escape from the memories of her son that John conjured for her. Lemar Burgess, the Director of PreCrime, is also a man drawn into crime by his desire to keep PreCrime from being discredited. In the end he is willing to kill to keep his power, a most human fallacy. Gideon, the sentry at PreCrime, questions John about removing a data file when he is challenged on his own righteousness.


The Cinematography of
Minority Report lends itself to the theme of black and white. The lighting is done in a very interesting manner: outside is always bright and overwhelmed with sunlight while inside scenes are dark with light streaming into the scene from outside. This leads one to think that maybe Steven Spielberg believes that we are basically dark on the inside, and it is the outside influences that keep us in the light (good). In the world of PreCrime, there is only the victim and perpetrator: BLACK & White. Even the costumes are mostly black and white with occasional washed out color. Most of the characters wear black – especially those associated with PreCrime – but the innocent such as the children wear white. When John is exercising in the “Sprawl” (the high crime area), he gets drugs from a dealer, and his face is shadowed. Here we see that even Chief Anderton has a darkside.

In a world dominated by black and white versions of right and wrong, innocence and guilt, we are all blind.

“In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king”