A lot of readers are busting my chops for stating that Minority Report ("MR") is the best Spielberg film. To clarify, I wasn’t trying to bad mouth the Color Purple or Schindler’s List or any of his other classics (the “Spielberg Classics”). I love a lot of Spielberg’s movie, so that’s not an issue. Also, the "best" is a term of art. My definition will probably differ from yours, but I consider a film to be the "best" when it's technically flawless and substantively engaging (a dope plot).
From a technical standpoint, Spielberg is operating at the highest level. I don’t think anyone has a problem with the editing, cinematography, or direction of MR. It moves like a fast paced novel, and he doesn’t waste any frames. It’s fluid, succinct, and visually stunning. (Note: Spielberg generally works with the same production team).
Perhaps MR is not culturally “important” as the Spielberg Classics. Maybe, but I think that response is weak. Who determines what films are “important”? Is it solely contingent on the substance of the plot? The impact? Box office numbers? There is no set standard in determining what films are more important. It isn't objective. If this criticism had any weight, there would need to be an objective standard in determining the "cultural importance" of a film. I don't think that standard exist, hence I'm convinced by this line of reasoning.
Someone might interject, and argue that MR did not deal with a substantive historical issue like some of the Spielberg Classics, and I’d disagree with that too. MR attempted to tackle an important philosophical issue. The freewill/determinism debate has gone on for centuries, so it’s erroneous to play down the magnitude of its importance. I might also add that it's one of the key reasons people decide to dismiss religion, which has led to much strife between the believers and non-believers. Yes, race issues and the Holocaust are important issues, but they aren’t by default the most important. Moreover, the significance of an issue will change depending on the person. So, if you are more interested with philosophy in film, then a movie like MR will resonate more with you.
Maybe one will argue that the acting in MR wasn’t on par with the Spielberg Classics. Maybe. Who determines that? Is there some sort of scale that we can place performances on to determine the best one? Personally, I thought the acting in MR was brilliant. Tom Cruise was at his best (probably gave a better performance in Magnolia). Colin Farrell also gave one of his better performances. Max Von Sydow was the true gem of the film. (and Samantha Morton is brilliant as Agatha - Thanks Fred).
What arguments are left? Realistically, the burden of proof is not on me. Unless there is some objective way to determine what films are the best, then most arguments don’t hold weight. I’m not saying The Mask 2 is better than The Spielberg Classics. I’m arguing that MR is his best film because it appeals to me more so than any of his other films. I’m not arguing that MR is of a better production quality (It’s the same group of dudes), but that philosophically it was more interesting.
Some people like Amnesiac more than OK Computer. I'm one of those people . . .