Sunday, March 25, 2012

Samantha Morton shines brightest in Minority Report

I had the pleasure of re-watching Minority Report not long ago when I found it playing on TV one Saturday afternoon. I liked the movie a lot when I first saw it during its theatrical release in 2002. The film is a perfect blend of action and interesting ideas; it appeals to our minds as well as our emotions. Its impressive special effects and incredible cinematography and direction are thrilling to watch, but it also tells a human story with complex human feelings.

The idea of pre-crime – stopping crimes before they happen – is, very simply described, the premise of the film. The brainwaves of three precognitive human beings (or “Pre-Cogs”) are tapped because they’re able to pick up thoughts of premeditated murders. Their prescience is used to warn police of murders before they are committed. There’s a rare glitch, however, in their visions. We’re told that although the Pre-Cogs are never wrong, sometimes they disagree. And disagree they do. The dissenting Pre-Cog files a minority report involving the chief of the Department of Pre-Crime, John Anderton (Tom Cruise.) The report is crucial because the Pre-Cogs foresee that a murder will soon be committed by Anderton himself and the report warns him of the danger he is about to befall.

The characters and the story coupled with the superb direction of Steven Spielberg and the daring and skillful special effects make for one exciting futuristic whodunit. After re-watching the film, these same things impressed me yet again, but what stood out above all of it for me this time ‘round was Samantha Morton’s portrayal of the dissenting Pre-Cog, Agatha.

Samantha Morton has impressed me a lot over the course of her career. She may just be the most independent of actresses; selective and discerning in picking projects that are always different than anything she’s done before. In Minority Report, she is a true gem. When Anderton goes against protocol and kidnaps Agatha from her fluid tank to take her on the run with him, Morton steals the show. She creates something truly unique and magical in her performance as Agatha. She is utterly captivating with her shorn hair and her magnetic blue eyes that constantly look like they’re on the verge of tears. Portrayed by a lesser actress, Agatha could have come off as a comical and cartoonish weak link, but Morton gives the character a deeply felt pathos and a stunning hopefulness amidst the chaos and uncertainty of Anderton’s quest to clear himself. At no time does she relinquish believability or fall out of character.

Some of the sequences which feature Morton are truly stunning to behold. Because Agatha has spent her time as a Pre-Cog floating in a fluid tank, her muscles are weakened and Anderton has to half-carry, half-drag her while they’re on the run. Morton portrays Agatha’s vulnerability, childlike delicacy, fragility, prescience, exhaustion and fear superbly. One of the most memorable scenes shows Agatha foreseeing the immediate future – when a man will pass by holding a bunch of balloons, for example – and advising Anderton about what to do to remain shielded from police. She clutches Anderton tightly willing him not to move, to wait for it; wait for them to be hidden from view. It’s a brilliant nail biter of a scene with perfect choreography, timing and execution.

Another remarkably beautiful scene shows the contrast between Anderton and Agatha and creates genuine mystery in its powerful simplicity. Anderton is a man of action on a mission to prove his innocence while Agatha’s forced along, weak in body but eerily strong in mind. The counterpoint between these two characters is shown in a two-shot that has Agatha hanging over Anderton’s shoulder with their eyes searching desperately in opposite directions. The way that Morton conveys a helpless poignancy through something as simple as the timing of her breathing is riveting to watch.

Morton becomes Agatha, body and soul, and never for one moment as a viewer are you aware that it’s Samantha Morton just playing a part. Maybe it’s because Morton is non-descript as actresses go. She is lovely in her simple and plain beauty which does not distract or remind you while she is onscreen of who she is outside of film. In Minority Report, she creates a truly unique and memorable character in Agatha, and every scene she’s in grips you whether she’s talking to Anderton about his son or screaming “Run” on the top of her lungs or saying nothing at all.


  1. Good review. My favorite Morton movie is In America, but I did enjoy Minority Report. I agree that the balloon scene is a winner. I also liked how the movie did a good job extrapolating technology to a few decades in the future, whether it was the sonic weapons of the cops, or the tracking a person by their cellphone and displaying ads specific to them (something that has already come true).

    1. Thanks. 'In America' is another great Morton film. I haven't seen all of her films, but of the ones I have seen, I can't think of one I did not like.

      The use of technology in the film was very smart indeed.

  2. easily my favorite performance from her.

    1. It's the performance that stands out for me too despite the fact that she's delivered many other great performances.


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