the adjustment bureau

What if you were being guided down a path you no longer wanted to go, because you met someone and that someone wasn’t part of the plan? David Norris’ life seems to have been mapped out for him, everything was falling into place. Then an adjustment had failed to be made and Chance was given its window. Thrown off schedule, but undeterred,  David (Matt Damon) and the Plan were back on track. Except this niggling little problem involving a woman, Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt).

Getting a rare glimpse behind the curtain of Reality, David is told in no uncertain terms must he and Elise get together. It was not in the books. David and Chance feel otherwise and David finds himself fighting for the future he would choose. A future that Elise, too, has a vested interest in.

Even if you didn’t know Director/Producer/Screenplay writer George Nolfi’s The Adjustment Bureau was loosely based on a Philip K. Dick story (Adjustment Team)*, you would guess. From the first trailer Sean and I agreed, “that sounds like the premise of a Philip K. Dick.” The intervention by higher (governmental) powers who control everything; lurking in black suits and with incredible resource. The paranoia is palpable in a way Dick would do it. Are the forces truly as malevolent as they seem? As more was revealed and the film actually watched, it could be said that The Adjustment Bureau feels a bit more of a love story than you imagined a Dick story would be. And it is. For all the lovely Science Fiction, Political/Corporate Intrigue, Chase Scenes (lots of  running), and wonderful Effects, The Adjustment Bureau is a Romance Drama and George Nolfi’s film.

The film begins with an introduction of a charming young politician on the campaign trail. Matt Damon is his All-American best in his easy smile and commanding presence. That we know him as the talented Mr. Ripley and Jason Bourne in previous iterations work in Damon’s favor. You know as a character he will be smart and resourceful and physically fit enough. But Damon as a romantic figure is less familiar and Damon is–as fans of him could guess–quite convincing. It helps that Damon is accompanied by a wonderful performance by Emily Blunt. Her character Elise is a bit of the wild card, indulging in the more passionate and emotional sides of her Artistic personality. She proves as impulsive upon occasion as David Norris does. Their chance meetings have all the ear-marks of an enchanting serendipitous romantic encounter. However, The Adjustment Bureau does not go off the Romantic Deep-End. For all the passion and impulse David and Elise are given, they are also Reasonable. And David isn’t the only one with ambition, and envisioned with a bright and important future. The story is marvelously complicated by Real Life, as the stakes must be weighed. What would be good for whom? Is the future that bleak without this path/person? Can they have it all?

(Anthony Mackie as Harry Mitchell is very enjoyable. I look forward to seeing him in leading roles in the near future. Really, all the supporting roles in this film were nicely played.)

The action and suspense enter by means of men in tailored suits and fedoras from the Adjustment Bureau. They are in charge of making necessary adjustments and keeping things on course. They are a zealous lot, and not to be trifled with.  What they are up to, the unknown/unexplained creates a great deal of tension. But as the film progresses, the means by which the adjustments are made become more than mildly horrifying.

The Action coupled with the Romance creates an entertaining film about Fate and Chance and our own Free-Will.

The Adjustment Bureau is just lovely to watch. The camera work, lighting, music, acting, costuming, the transitions between Reality and Behind, they are all shiny. Movements up and down and through, the conflicts, the mysteries slowly unwound–there’s nothing too hard to follow. It isn’t too gritty a film, or too fluffy; though I am guessing some might prefer a little more edge, or an ending an Indie-film might produce. I thought it a solid film all the way around.

The Adjustment Bureau is a really safe choice, adjust your viewing schedules accordingly.


The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Directed by George Nolfi

Produced by George Nolfi, Chris Moore, Michael Hackett, Bill Carraro, Isa Dick Hackett, Joel Viertel

Screenplay by George Nolfi

Based on Adjustment Team by Philip K. Dick

Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie

Music by Thomas Newman

Cinematography John Toll

Editing by Jay Rabinowitz

Running time 106 minutes.

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image.

Wiki page. IMDb page.

Roger Ebert’s review. Manohla Dargis’ NY Times review

*Wikipedia has a facsimile of Adjustment Team by Philip K. Dick as published in Orbit Science Fiction, Sept-Oct. 1954, No.4. Do have a read, though you may want to wait a space after the film (or well before). If you’ve seen the film: try not to think about the objectification of the wife or the ease in which she is distracted; nor how the Harry Mitchell character’s part correlates with that of the dog.

Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

2 thoughts on “the adjustment bureau

  1. Wow, you captured everything I would have said had I gotten off my butt and written a review back when it was initially released. I couldn’t agree more. I have been a fan of Damon since the first Bourne film and it really didn’t take much more than his presence as the lead to make me want to see this. Sealing the deal was Emily Blunt, who I think is just lovely and a fine actress in her own right. I thought the director struck a really nice balance between the action/sf elements and the romance without going over the line on either side. I have a much higher tolerance of saccharine in romantic or feel-good films. If it doesn’t go toooo far I generally don’t even notice it just because I am a romantic at heart. But you point out quite well that this did not drift that way at all. There was an authenticity to their relationship, it was almost subtle in compared to the typical rom-com approach to movie romance. I genuinely liked this film. I’ve been fairly pleased with the PKD adaptations and this is another one that I plan on owning.

    You pointed out that the control issues veered over into the horrifying and there really were some awful moments that lead you to hope that we are never in a position to be that under the control of someone else.

    I thought the effects were very nicely handled. I especially liked the books of fate that the men in suits had. Very nicely done.

    1. thanks.

      I liked the books, too. they were very nicely done. they used the effects really nicely, not going over-the-top like it must be tempting to do in a SF film.

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