Minority Report

Plot Hole Paradox

John AndertonDespite Minority Report being an amazing film—indeed, one of the best films of the year—there was one glaring plot hole that must be acknowledged.

First, I will consider some alleged plot holes, and then I will consider the aforementioned plot hole that I find so glaring.

Alleged Plot Holes

Various people have attempted to find plot holes in the film.  For instance, one site writes,

Anderton’s wife gains entry into the jailhouse using her husband’s eyeball—but he’s already locked up inside, so his eye would not still have access to enter as it pleased.  Any place anywhere that would have any sort of security system requiring anything from a simple passcode to a card key to a retinal scan, would immediately delete the user in such instances from all rights.  And would also certainly report on any attempted use of such (retinal scan, pass code, whatever).

I thought about this as well, but nevertheless see explanations for it.  The most obvious explanation is that the state is an extremely inefficient institution.  Employees of the state apparatus know there is little likelihood of them being fired because the profits of the state do not hinge upon employees doing a good job; statist funds rest simply on the degree to which the state apparatus can plunder the wealth of the economic class.  So, perhaps some government employee simply dropped the ball on that one—it wouldn’t be the first time.  A second possible explanation is that they did try to eliminate Anderton’s retina clearance from the system, but by virtue of some glitch in the computer system, his security pass was still locked into the system.  Finally, it’s possible that the Precrime unit purposefully left Anderton’s clearance intact with the hope that Anderton would use it to return (which he does in order to snag Agatha), and that they could capture him upon his return.  Why his security clearance was still intact even after his capture could be the result of government employees forgetting that they had not taken his clearance out earlier—thus, we come back to statist inefficiency.

Another person writes that

In the [P]recrime commercial that plays half way through the movie, it says that a girl almost got raped but, because of precrime, she didn’t; but [the Precrime officers] said that the [P]rec[ogs] can’t see rape, larceny, or suicide (punctuation added).

Again, I see multiple possible explanations for this supposed error.  On the one hand, the commercial constituted propaganda aimed at the voting public.  The objective of said commercial was to get said public to be more accepting of the idea of creating a huge, intrusive, unconstitutional, and costly new federal programme.  Should we be shocked at a political ad that has questionable material?  Remember, this is the same government that lied to tourists and told them that the Precogs were treated well, with private rooms and personal gyms; obviously, that was a lie.  On the other hand, perhaps the woman in the ad was going to be a rape victim.  Yes, the Precogs cannot see rape by itself, but surely they can see murders committed by rapists.  If X decided that he was going to rape and then kill a victim, and the Precrime unit were to step in before this happens, would we not say that the woman was correct that she was saved from rape?

One Glaring Plot Hole

There is one big glaring plot hole that must be acknowledged.  And, yet, this same plot hole is not even listed on IMDb!  Are you ready for it?  Here goes:

The method used by Precrime Director Lamar Burgess to set up Precrime Chief John Anderton is virtually impossible!

This is, no doubt, a bold claim.  Yet, it is one we unavoidably must accept.

Ask yourself this: how does Burgess get Anderton to murder Leo Crow in the hypothetical future envisioned by the Precogs?  What is Anderton’s motivation to kill, in other words?  The answer is at first simple:  Burgess hires Crow to pretend to be the murderer of Anderton’s missing son, Sean Anderton.  Crow has pictures laid out upon a bed, one of which is of Sean.  So, if Burgess can somehow get Anderton to Crow, it is presumed that Anderton will kill Crow.

But how does Burgess get Anderton to Crow. Aha! Now we have a paradox, an unresolvable plot hole.  For, Anderton would never have gotten to Crow if not for the Precogs’ vision, and the Precogs’ vision would not have manifested had Anderton not gotten to Crow.  Thus, we have a causal loop.

It might be objected that Burgess could have easily gotten Anderton to see Crow by simply asking Anderton to go talk to the same in so-and-so apartment on so-and-so street.  Anderton would arrive, see the picture, and shoot Crow, and the Precogs would see it.  But this also cannot be the case, for remember, Agatha is in the room during the murder in the Precogs’ vision.  If Burgess had simply sent Anderton to see this random individual whom he, Anderton, had never met, why would Agatha be there?

AgathaShe wouldn’t be there, of course, because she’s a Precog, and there’s no way the Precrime unit would simply let her leave.  She’s a slave of the government, forced to live in a half-sleeping state and to endure horrible visions of death.  Indeed, if anything were to happen to her, the whole Precrime system would collapse.  Moreover, the Precrime unit would be unable to detect any future murders during her leave.

But, let’s ignore all that, and consider the extremely unlikely scenerio in which Burgess plans, for some odd and irrational reason, to ask Anderton to take Agatha to see some random man named Leo F. Crow.  In this alternative timeline, Anderton awakens Agatha, tells her that she must see some random man she has never met named Leo F. Crow for some reason unbeknownst to him, takes her to see said random man at so-and-so address on so-and-so street, sees the picture of his missing son, and shoots Crow while Agatha watches.  The Precogs foresee that this is the future line of events, sans their own premonition, and the red balls pops out.  Have we done it?  Have we resolved the riddle?

No, because remember, free will exists in the world of Minority Report.  “You still have a choice!” as Agatha exclaims.  He can opt to act differently than he does in the Precogs’ vision, Agatha explains, because he has seen his own forecast.  “The others never saw their future.”

So, the red balls pop out, and Anderton is on the lam.  Burgess never has a chance to ask Anderton to run that little errand because a whole new timeline has already manifested itself as a result of Precogs’ vision.  And this is key:  We’re dealing with a whole new timeline.  This is not, and cannot, be the same timeline that the Precogs saw, for if it were, the Precrime unit would never have been capable of preventing even a single murder.  The effectiveness of the Precrime unit is predicated on the fact that the Precogs’ visions inherently create new timelines, timelines in which murders are prevented.

So, here we are, in a totally different timeline, a totally different sequence of events than the sequence of events that led to the murder that the Precogs had foreseen.  Because we’re in this totally different timeline, the same problem occurs as before:  How does Burgess get Anderton to Crow?  In the film, Anderon finds Crow by recognising something outside of Crow’s apartment.  But what is the likelihood that Anderton, in this alternative timeline, would find himself in just the right spot at just the right time in order to locate Crow, and would find himself holding a gun to Crow at exactly the same time he shot Crow in the alternative timeline?  The likelihood of Burgess’s plan coming together would be astronomically small, therefore.  Not only would he have to hope that Anderton finds himself in just the right place at just the right time, he would have to hope that Anderton kidnaps (or gets caught attempting to kidnap) Agatha, for, how else would he get Agatha into the room in the alternative timeline; he would have to hope that Crow doesn’t turn himself in, for then Burgess would surely be exposed; he would have to hope that the Precogs’ vision manifested itself prior to him asking Anderton to wake Agatha up, for, knowledge of such an unusual request would be quite suspicious; and he would have to hope that Agatha herself is in no way harmed during all of this mayhem, since his job relied upon her abilities.


There are so many variables here for which Burgess cannot possibly control that he would be either insane or a complete fool to even attempt to frame John Anderton by this method.  Clearly, it would be virtually impossible for Burgess’s plan to work.  And that’s even assuming he thought out his set-up with as much focus on detail as I have above.  If he has not, which is the more likely case, then we revert back to the causal loop problem, where the cause is somehow predicated upon its own effect.

Thus, as we can see, this is one mighty plot hole with which we’re dealing.  While the film is nevertheless quite fun and extremely intriguing to watch, and while I am glad to see that the philosophic and political themes explored in the film are at the forefront when the film is discussed or analysed, at the end of the day, it must be acknowledged that this film would be impossible even if Precogs and the Precrime unit were real.

And, quite honestly, I’m surprised that this gaping plot hole has drawn the attention of so few others.  How could one miss it?