Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt

The Adjustment Bureau is a movie that feels as though it wants to tackle some rather large philosophical and metaphysical questions… do we have free will or are our lives controlled by fate and a “master plan”? This movie gives us an answer… occasionally clumsy in it’s execution, yet thanks to a great cast and a well paced one hour and thirty nine minute run time I feel compelled to forgive the massive amounts of exposition and say that this is a fun and at times very exciting “what if?”.

David Norris (Matt Damon), a wildly popular young New York congressman who’s career has been meteoric in spite of his rather impulsive behavior, is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate when a silly pic of him mooning some people with his old college buddies surfaces and ruins his campaign. On the night of the election, and just prior to his concession speech, he meets a beautiful and somewhat mysterious woman (Emily Blunt) in the men’s restroom and the attraction is immediate. Spurned on by the chance encounter, his concession speech is so inspired he suddenly becomes the front runner for the next election.

At this point we are introduced to an overcoat and fedora wearing group of 1960’s Mad Men type men (humorously one of these men is John Slattery from Mad Men) who appear to be overseeing everything that is going on (as in globally… it’s in the trailer, I’m not spoiling)… and are in the process of making sure Norris is late to work. After one of these men in hats falls asleep and misses his “adjustment”, David and Elise meet up again through chance and Norris arrives to work on time only to find everyone frozen and men in riot gear along with the men in fedoras doing something odd to all of his statuesque colleagues. Immediately we are told who these men are and why he can’t see Elise… the mystery becomes less about who and what the strange men are, and more about whether or not David and Elise will ever hook up again.

Based on a short story by science fiction author Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep [Blade Runner], Minority Report, Total Recall and A Scanner Darkly among others) I was certainly expecting the science fiction aspect of the story… but was pleasantly surprised to find the film is far more of a love story than anything else. Yes, there are some great bits of reality bending (think a cross between Inception and Monster’s Inc.… lots of doors) science fiction, but also a wonderful quandary about what it is to love someone enough that you will leave them for their sake.

First time director George Nolfi does a great job in moving the story along as well as assembling a fantastic cast. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are usually steller in everything they do… but along with them are the aforementioned Slattery, the great character actor Michael Kelly (CJ from Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead) and the perpetually welcome Terence Stamp who can convey a level of menace and foreboding like no one else. But the movie does rest on the shoulders of Damon and Blunt… and the chemistry between the two is palpable. She is gorgeous as always (I’m not sure what about her I find so striking… either the cleft chin or the wonderful nose… but I’m totally smitten) and at no point do I not believe Damon as a potential Senator.

Although it certainly has it’s flaws, The Adjustment Bureau was a fun little romp through the idea of whether or not we control our own lives or are being controlled. It poses some big questions and shoehorns the answer into an easy to grasp concept. I have not read the Dick story this is taken from, but I would guess there is little of the original story to be found here other than the basic premise. Philip K. Dick is not known for accessibility… but The Adjustment Bureau will not strain your thought process much… they take care of that for you.

Thinking doors as metaphors has been overdone,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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