In Minority Report, how did Lamar Burgess perpetuate the red ball that resulted in Anderton becoming a fugitive?

This is my understanding of the manipulation of the pre-crime system by Burgess:

Burgess is a character who, much like Dr. Iris Hineman, was involved in the Precog program from the ground floor, and as such is aware of its vulnerabilities. It is with this knowledge that he hires a drug user/drifter to kill Agatha's mother (Ann Lively), which (being from that point pre-meditated by the killer) immediately produces a report from the pre-cogs. He views the report, and the hired goon is immediately arrested. Burgess then engineers circumstances that are visually identical to the manner in which his employee would have killed Lively, and replicates them, so they are considered to be an 'Echo' and dismissed.

The film then seems to tie in the logic from this into Anderton's situation, as though he were being manipulated, but it doesn't seem to function logically.

Burgess is revealed to have payed Leo Crow to "pretend to have murdered [his] kid", angering Anderton to the point of willful homicide and as such incarceration. But what was Leo Crow supposed to do, exactly? just sit in a hotel room and wait for Anderton to show up?

It's only because of the report that Anderton even goes looking for Crow.

The crime requires the Pre-cog report as instigation of the crime, without the report they would have been no crime, as Anderton would not have 'known his future'?

I understand there is a lot of mythology surrounding self-fulfilling prophecies, but I'm not entirely sure the film adheres to its own logic. It seems to me that, unlike the careful choreography of the first Murder (which makes total sense, and is a pretty awesome parable about techno-dependence stimulating corruption), the second one just seems...impossible?

How would the Pre-Cogs predict the murder, if it is the prediction itself that is catalyst for murder?

This has been called a 'causal loop' elsewhere, but I wonder if anyone can make sense of if this is possible, and if there is something we're all missing?

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    Sadly enough I don't think this has a plausible answer (yet would also be happy to find one). It's the same as the fact that Anderton kills Crow not exactly in the way as predicted (if I remember correctly) but a few seconds later and rather unwillingly (while the "vision" shows him directly shooting Crow, I think), after having changed the future slightly. And in the same way Lamar Burgess could certainly change the future when not killing Anderton as predicted but himself at the end.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Mar 17, 2014 at 14:19
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    Man, couldn't you have asked this a few days earlier? This was just on TV this weekend, but I didn't pay enough attention. ;-(
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Mar 17, 2014 at 14:21
  • One could argue that someone (Burgess) kills Leo Crow - by putting him in that situation with Anderton which ends up with him committing suicide. All that Burgess needs to do is to manipulate the system to make sure that Anderton's name is on the red-ball. It's a smaller system manipulation than faking the entire video sequence of the 'murder'. I'm not confident enough in the idea to make it an answer though.
    – iandotkelly
    Mar 17, 2014 at 15:05
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    "not exactly the way as predicted" - the precogs don't predict a specific way, they merely project images of the events. All of the images for Crow matched, exactly, what happened. The "predicting" part comes from the law enforcement interpreting the images. It's that translation between the raw images and assumptions and interpretations by law enforcement that Lamar manipulated. The premise that Anderton killed any differently than what pre-cogs showed is not correct. The vision does not show him shooting Crow. It shows him pointing his gun. Aug 25, 2016 at 14:43
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    @JohnSmithOptional - The same is true for every "murder" they see that gets prevented by the actions of police, so I'm not sure about why you seem to think there is a level of precision that is not part of the story. Aug 25, 2016 at 20:00

2 Answers 2


While I'm skeptical about finding a completely plausible explanation, I don't think this is completely wrongly done.

The fact that the prediction itself has put the events of the movie into motion, does not mean that none of this would have happened without it. There were many ways in which Burgess could've set Anderton on his path. Once that's set up, the future murder is going to happen, and the Precogs see it. Then Anderton follows the prediction, which kinda helps him arrive to the right place.

The fact that he also arrives at the same time can be attributed to the movie magic, but don't remember that he saw the time and was chasing it.

We can also view it like this:

  1. The future murder is set, hence it will happen.
  2. Therefore, Anderton will find out about it and will pursue the trail.
  3. Because of that, the events will happen as we saw them.

So, the Precog's vision, in a way, contains itself, but did not initiate the events. It possibly shaped them to an extent, although I wouldn't bet on it.

Napoleon Wilson nicely put it in the comment, so I'll copy it here, as it is really a summary of what I was trying to say with the above:

Once Burgess set up Crow, the "murder" by Anderton had to happen sooner or later anyway, it's just that the prophecy made it unneccessary for Burgess to give Anderton any further clues.

The part of the murder that we saw in the precognitive vision happens the way it was foretold. The vision does not show Anderton seconds before it. I think that the way the murder/suicide was shot clearly shows that it fits the vision.

Of course, the time is off by a few seconds, but the pictures that Precogs get are not a tidy movie. The clock could've been from a vision a few seconds before the fatal shot.

There is one more factor, which Agatha explains: once you know your future, you can change it. Anderton decides against killing Leo who, in turn, reveals his true motivation and initiates his murder/suicide.

This brings us to one point that I think the movie maybe silently claims (as discussed in the comments, I'm not too sure of this part, but I see it as a possible theory): you cannot change major moments of your future (similarly to Sliding Doors). This premise, I think, would give an extra ground to the assumption that, no matter what happened prior to it, the murder would go on as the Precogs foresaw, so it was in no way initiated by them.

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    Indeed that's also what I would have thought. Once Burgess set up Crow, the "murder" by Anderton had to happen sooner or later anyway, it's just that the prophecy made it unneccessary for Burgess to give Anderton any further clues. I might also agree that the murder happened like in the vision and it was only the vision's (probably deliberate) unclarity that made me believe it happened slightly different.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Mar 17, 2014 at 15:38
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    Your answer makes good sense, but I can't help but notice the dichotomy it contains. You begin with the assumption that Fate or Destiny exists, and yet the Film's very message is that it does not: we each have free will, and the future seen by the precogs is only one possibility. This fact immediately undermines the concept of a singular destiny, which is why PreCrime is shut down. Mar 17, 2014 at 16:42
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    I might be wrong; it's been a while since I watched the movie. My remembering of the finale is that Agatha announced "Murder!", be we didn't see whose. Is it possible that suicides also get detected? Fletcher explains: "Because of the nature of murder. There's nothing more destructive to the metaphysical fabric that binds us than the untimely murder of one human being by another". While this does state "by another", I don't think "nature" would see as much difference and the emphasize is (should be?) on the "untimely murder". This would also explain why Leo's destiny was seen as a murder. Mar 17, 2014 at 17:10
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    A bit off-topic here (better suited for a separate question), but since it was mentioned: I think that the shutting down of PreCrime is questionable at best. It was only proven that the system can be abused by corrupt individuals inside it, but not that it was actually faulty. With that argument, one could disband the whole police force and, indeed, any kind of state of judiciary system we might have. Mar 17, 2014 at 17:19
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    @VedranŠego I think you're missing the wider ramifications pertaining the flaw of PreCrime. The system is necessitated on the principle of inevitability, of the visions being indisputable, and as such in the existence of Fate. Anderton proves there is no such thing, by choosing not to kill Leo Crow. The reason PreCrime is shut down is because it is no longer accurate, and the underpinning principle towards the inevitability of the crime (which substantiates the punishment) is undermined and proven false. The system can't be legally supported if it contains Minority Reports, hence.. Mar 17, 2014 at 21:55

This thread is a few years old, but I just re-watched Minority Report (I think it's a truly great movie) and I have been thinking about this presumed paradox ever since.

I don't think there is a paradox at all. My reason for this is best explained by pondering this key question:

What is the incident that sets the entire plot in motion, and who instigates it?

The critical juncture occurs 29 minutes into the film, when Agatha, the most gifted of the Pre-Cogs, rushes up out of the water in the Temple, grabs John Anderton's arms, and says, "Can you see?!". She then broadcasts Lamar's murder of Ann Lively (her mother) from years before. It is this cryptic video of Ann Lively that sets everything in motion: John Anderton starts to follow the clues that will lead inevitably to his discovery of the murder; and it is this investigation that causes Lamar Burgess to pay off Crow and frame John Anderton.

Agatha is the key to all of this. She instigates the entire plot, and given her abilities to see the future, intervenes where necessary.

Why does Agatha reach up out of the water and provide Anderton these clues to her mother's death? The motivations are obvious to me: she wants justice for her mother's death, and freedom for herself and the other pre-cogs. Agatha knows the future: I believe that she knew full well that her sudden and unexpected choice to reveal her "minority report" to Anderton would set the dominoes in motion that would lead to her freedom, and justice for her mother.

This still doesn't explain, however, why Anderton ends up in a random hotel room, ready to murder someone he has never met before. Again, Agatha is the key to this question as well. It is Agatha who cleverly helps Anderton evade capture by the police, and then guides him directly to the hotel where Crow is waiting.

I love this subtle aspect of the plot, which reinforces the main theme that "everyone has a choice" and that nothing is truly pre-destined. John Anderton chooses not to murder Leo Crow; Lamar Burgess chooses to commit suicide; and Agatha chooses to set everything in motion, when she reaches out and reveals to Anderton her minority report of her mother's death.

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