The first time I watched The Adjustment Bureau I was quite disappointed. I don’t know quite what I was expecting but it wasn’t what I got. A sci-fi yarn directed and written by George Nolfi (based on the story “Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick) and featuring a top notch cast, the best thing to consider before viewing The Adjustment Bureau is that it’s a sci-fi movie that uses some trappings of the genre to create an interesting and unusual romantic drama. It’s about chance and the ability to choose your own destinty. It’s like Serendipity but a lot cooler.
Matt Damon plays David Norris, a politician who finds himself falling in love after a chance encounter with dancer Elise (Emily Blunt). However, David and Elise aren’t supposed to see each other again. Their lives aren’t destine to intertwine. It’s not part of the plan. Who makes sure that things go ahead as predetermined? The Adjustment Bureau, that’s who. Sometimes people lose their keys or get on the wrong bus by complete chance but sometimes they are directed on their journey by the scheming of The Adjustment Bureau. David sees things that nobody should see but he is then told that he cannot tell anyone else about it. Oh, and he cannot have Elise in his life. He doesn’t really have a problem with the first part but he sees no good reason why he should be kept apart from a woman he loves. The Adjustment Bureau, with their bag of tricks including the ability to cause accidents and a secret network of major shortcuts behind every door, go out of their way to show David that it doesn’t matter what he wants. They will always be able to get the result they want.
The cast assembled here is a mixed bag with one unifying factor – everyone onscreen is superb. Matt Damon is pretty consistently great in everything he does, Emily Blunt is very good and Michael Kelly (as David’s advisor) is someone I always like seeing onscreen. Anthony Mackie, John Slattery and Terence Stamp are all fantastic as three members of the titular bureau with different ways of getting the job done. Everyone brings something to their role, whether it’s Damon infusing his character with integrity and honesty or Terence Stamp embodying the old pro who knows every trick in the book and makes sure that the job gets done even if he takes no personal pleasure in what needs to happen.
Geogre Nolfi does well enough but you can’t help thinking that he could have done better. The aspects of the movie that are more fun to watch (the creation of bizarre coincidences, the use of doors to go anywhere in the city) feel underused but that’s just because they’re not the focus of the story. This is, essentially, a tale of love and a classic tale of a love that seems to be doomed from the start. In that respect, the whole mix works very well. But that doesn’t stop you enjoying things more during a sequence that ups the colume and the pace to show a race through the doorways of New York as events lead up to a satisfying finale.
The look of the movie is disappointingly bland but the score by Thomas Newman is pleasing enough and this movie really concentrates on the performances and ideas put forward rather than overwhelming viewers with style and special effects. It’s a bit underwhelming when the end credits roll but it’s also one that grows on you.
DIRECTOR: GEORGE NOLFI
WRITER: GEORGE NOLFI (BASED ON A STORY BY PHILIP K. DICK)
STARS: MATT DAMON, EMILY BLUNT, MICHAEL KELLY, ANTHONY MACKIE, JOHN SLATTERY, TERENCE STAMP
RUNTIME: 106 MINS APPROX