Film

The Adjustment Bureau


The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
★★★ / ★★★★

Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, “The Adjustment Bureau” was about a U.S. Congressman named David Norris (Matt Damon) and his accidental discovery of men in hats (John Slattery, Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp) whose jobs were to make sure that fate went according to plan. The event that triggered it all was David’s chance encounter with Elise (Emily Blunt), incidentally, the night David was destined to lose the election. The moment David and Elyse met, they immediately felt a spark, a signal that perhaps they just might spend the rest of their lives together. But the mysterious men in hats and their boss upstairs knew that David and Elyse were not meant to meet each other, let alone be together, so they were willing to do whatever means necessary to keep them apart. The film was a successful hybrid of romance and science fiction. Its casting should be recognized. From the moment David and Elyse met in the men’s restroom, Damon and Blunt convinced us that their characters were perfect for one another. They played each other off with ease. From the awkward “What are you doing in the men’s restroom?” look to the way the their bodies moved closer to each other as their first conversation went on, the picture convinced us that they had chemistry. Casting was fundamental but critical because if their interactions lacked charm, we wouldn’t have been emotionally invested. If we didn’t want them to end up together, the conspiracy that wanted to keep them apart would have been ineffective. I admired the fact that there was not a defined good versus evil. The agents of the Adjustment Bureau were assigned a job and their job just happened to involve separating forces that greatly attracted each other. There were some plot holes, especially since the film took the liberty to fast forward in time for several years without explaining some events that happened in between, and misplaced expositions designed to explain what was happening and why certain things had to happen a certain way, but such elements were almost expected in high concept movies. For me, what mattered more was the material always looked forward so its pacing was steady. Like people in love, as long as I remained curious about the mystery and how the romance would eventually turn out, I learned to live with its imperfections. Unlike most films with romance in their veins, David and Elise’s fate as a couple wasn’t perfectly clear. There was a discussion of death which could serve as a foreshadowing. There was a question whether we should leave someone we love if we knew that our presence in their lives hindered them from reaching their potential. But there was also an implication that if enough unpredictable ripple effect were created, perhaps fate could be changed even in the slightest ways. Directed by George Nolfi, “The Adjustment Bureau” was able to reach a balance between intelligence and heart. But what it required from us was a little bit of imagination.

4 replies »

  1. This seems like the first big release of the year that actually has some potential for me to like it. I love Philip K. Dick almost as much as Damon so .. should be a satisfying experience !

    • Definitely the first film of 2011 worth checking out. My friends and I are split on this. They claim that the trailer was misleading, that they expected for it to be more action-oriented (especially since Damon is involved). In some ways, I agree. But I did like that it surprised me. The romance/sci-fi hybrid is interesting.

  2. This is not Matt Damons strongest movie. Ive enjoyed him much more in the Bourne series. Somehow, with all the good acting and great set design the movie just does not flow well. The idea that we are all adjusted to make important decisions is unique, but it doesn’t do so well with this 99 minute time-limit. Good Review!

    • It isn’t Matt Damon’s strongest film. That we can agree on. But can I assume that you thought that 100 minutes was too short? I’d have to disagree. I think it did run for a little too long, about 10-15 minutes. I could have done without some of the scenes that served to explain what was happening.

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