Thoughtcrimes (2003) poster

Thoughtcrimes (2003)


USA. 2003.


Director – Breck Eisner, Teleplay – Thomas Dean Donnelly & Joshua Oppenheimer, Producer – George W. Perkins, Photography – Chris Manley, Music – Brian Tyler, Visual Effects Supervisors – Ray Gieringer & Phil Jones, Special Effects Supervisor – Brock Jolliffe, Production Design – Franco De Cotiis. Production Company – Paramount.


Navi Rawat (Freya McAllister), Joe Flanigan (Brendan Dean), Peter Horton (Dr Michael Welles), Joe Morton (John Harper), Jocelyn Seagrave (June McAllister), Kim Coates (Lars Etsen), Janet Wright (Zoya Kokotovic), Paulino Nunez [Nunes] (Agent Kunzel), Roman Podhora (Agent Patel)


Freya McAllister attends her high school prom but is overcome by hearing voices all around her. She is placed in the psych ward, thought to be suffering from schizophrenia. There she manages to tune out the voices by concentrating on books. Four years later, she is conscripted by Dr Michael Welles who explains that she is picking up the thoughts of others and shows her techniques to control the voices. Welles is seeking to recruit Freya to work for a government agency but she runs away after she reads thoughts of the agency’s heads and finds their intentions. She agrees to return and work after being persuaded of the urgent need of her help on a case. She is paired with agent Brendan Dean and the two are assigned to find the terrorist known as Gazal. All that is known is that Gazal is planning an assassination of a VIP in New York City in a few days. Not even Gazal’s identity is known and it is up to Freya to use her abilities to find who in the entire city he could be.

Thoughtcrimes was the first film from Breck Eisner. The son of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Breck started out as a commercials and music video director. He had previously made one of the episodes of the alien visitors tv mini-series Taken (2002). Subsequent to Thoughtcrimes, he went on to direct the Matthew McConaughey action vehicle Sahara (2005), which proved a big box-office flop. This was followed by the remake of The Crazies (2010), which fared somewhat better, and then another flop with the Vin Diesel starring The Last Witch Hunter (2015). Eisner’s name was attached to several big-budget remakes for several years but from the latter half of the 2010s he has been working as an episodic tv director.

Thoughtcrimes was made as a tv pilot by Paramount but it was decided not to proceed with a series order and it was released onto video/dvd as a standalone film. The film was made the year following Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report (2002), which had a challenging concept about a police force that uses precognitives to arrest criminals before they conduct their crime. You can see that a similar thinking has gone on here in the use of the title ‘thoughtcrimes’. That or someone had just read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Psychic Freya McAllister (Navi Rawat) and Brendan Dean (Joe Flanigan) in Thoughtcrimes (2003)
Psychic Freya McAllister (Navi Rawat) (r) and her partner Brendan Dean (Joe Flanigan) (l)

On the other hand, the conceptually adventurous idea of a precognitive police force here telescopes down to no more than having a telepath who aids a regular government agency. In effect it is no different to a series like Ghost Whisperer (2005-10) where Jennifer Love Hewitt gets information to solve a case by communing with ghosts. The series could have been something similar to the later Person of Interest (2011-6) but suffers the unimaginative conceptual horizons of being no more than a detective show featuring a psychic.

Everything moves with a tv movie predictability with easy, amped dramatic cues timed to the commercial break, along with a requisite number of thriller set-pieces, action chases and a nail-biting countdown. Certainly, Navi Rawat is perfectly serviceable in the lead role, while Joe Flanigan provides ruggedly handsome support. Especially good is Peter Horton who plays the empathic and understanding doctor who introduces Navi to the agency.

The script comes from the writing duo of Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer who subsequently went on to write Breck Eisner’s Sahara, along with the likes of A Sound of Thunder (2005), Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2010) and Conan the Barbarian (2011).

Full film available here

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