If you haven’t already seen National Treasure, Paycheck, and Minority Report, and you’re in the mood for a movie that moves, these won’t be disappointing. Or if you’ve already seen them, they’re good enough to see again.
National Treasure. Walt Disney Pictures. Released 2004
National Treasure is, like the title says, a historical treasure hunt on the order of Indiana Jones with provocative clues and puzzles. But instead of the iconic Harrison Ford, you have the award-winning and magnetic Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates, dashing about one step ahead of the bad guy, Sean Bean, and his cohorts. The object? The legendary Knights Templar treasure. But to find it, Gates must steal the Declaration of Independence.
What I loved about this movie, besides the fact that it exercised brains as well as brawn, were the vignettes of little-known American historical trivia. One was the fact that the oval office desk is called the Resolute because it was built from the timbers of the ship by that name which was part of the British Arctic Exploration. It was a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes. I had read this before in several historical novels and was impressed with the research the script writers had done — albeit in this day and time research is but a click away. But, at least they made the effort.
I hate to use the hackneyed phrase “all-star cast” , but in this instance it fits. Though many of the actors are known and loved — while not exactly reaching the status of household names — each and every one contributes to the enduring quality of this movie. The brainy side-kick Riley Poole, played by Justin Bartha, was so cute and quirky I wanted to take him home and keep him in a jar on the mantle. The villain, Sean Bean, was so suavely unsavory that he spiced up the heroes’ pulse-pounding race to stay ahead. And the producers actually put the talents of Diane Kruger on display rather than her measurements, as she perked-up the role of the clever and intellectual Abigail Chase.
The result is an action-packed movie you’d be proud to see with your children and grandchildren.
Paycheck. Science Fiction. Released 2003
Based on a short story by the late award-winning science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, Paycheck, starring Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Aaron Eckhart, and Paul Giamatti, explores a future where science may take society farther than it wants to go, and into annihilation.
The merit of the stories of Philip K. Dick, is that he explores the possible end results of scientific discoveries that run ahead of the human discipline, integrity, and wisdom required to control them. In the instance of Paycheck, Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), the head of a mega corporation, takes the world to the brink with his unbounded ambition.
Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck), is a computer genius who is hired for secret corporate projects. To keep even Jennings unaware of what these projects are, his memory is erased for the time involved in the assignment. He is also paid major money for the inconvenience. For one last job, one final paycheck, he is offered millions so he can retire from the business.
When the project ends, he finds he has not only lost three years of his life, but has forfeited the millions he was expecting for a package of worthless personal items he had surrendered when he took the contract. And before he can even get oriented he finds his life measured in moments, with only hair-trigger judgments and split-second timing to keep him alive long enough to solve the deadly riddle.
This movie was made to order for mystery mavens and adrenalin junkies. With its spectacular action sequences and complex clues, it keeps the viewer always on the edge and guessing to the very end.
Minority Report. Science Fiction. 2002. Stephen Spielberg.
When I started this post I didn’t realize that these last two movies — Paycheck and Minority Report — were both written by Philip K. Dick, who also wrote Total Recall (original title – We Can Remember it for You Wholesale). My husband says that anyone in this reading genre who doesn’t know the works of Philip K. Dick is reading Sci/Fi, not science fiction. As I already mentioned, this writer delved into the effects of rampant scientific advances upon civilization. In the case of Minority Report, it is law enforcement.
It has been years since a murder was committed in Washington, D.C., thanks to a new technology which PreCrime Captain John Anderton (Tom Cruise) helped to pioneer. Amazingly, it identifies killers before the crimes are committed. It is a fool-proof, perfect system. Or is it? When Anderton himself is identified by the faultless science as a killer before the fact, he must use his knowledge of every aspect of that system to stay alive.
The future is determined by the visions of three pre-cogs. If two of them agree upon a future murder, but one predicts an alternate outcome, the report of the majority stands, and the other — the minority report — is discarded.
Another excellent cast brings this mystery/science fiction thriller to life. Colin Farrell as Department of Justice Agent Danny Witwer, has already begun an investigation of Capt. Anderton on suspicion of use of a banned drug. But he runs into opposition from the unit police who venerate their leader. Now the agent must learn how to manipulate the system in order to track the former unit commander. The fugitive himself is shackled by his past — the disappearance of his precious son, Sean, from a pool where he was watching him. But eventually Anderton realizes he has been set up because of a cold-case murder of a young mother years before.
This film examines whether the future is set in stone, or whether free will can change the outcome. Although science has not advanced to the point of predicting an actual crime, Philip K. Dick was prescient in his projections of technology and big government and its impact upon society.
Minority Report is an award-winning first-class film of mystery and murder, tangled webs, and anguish and regret — not to mention heart-stopping action – with all revealed at the end. Minority Report has been lauded for its “unique visual style, with use of high contrast to create dark colors and shadows” (Wikipedia). Cruise is in his element here, with sterling performances by co-stars Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow, Neal McDonough, and Samantha Morton.