Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau
Directed by Gorge Nolfi
Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, Michael Kelly, John Slattery, Terence Stamp
Release date: March 4, 2011

There are things we as a society are not supposed to see. Whether it is governmental, religious, or even sports related, we are just encouraged to keep our eyes shut and our curiosity should be forever crippled. This is a bleak idea to assume, but conspiracies are out there, people. It is faintly perceptible what exactly it is the government, or whatever branch of society you want to look at, is trying to hide, accomplish, or complete. It is far above my paygrade to surmise. Some people, though, abide by the rules (turning away and crippling curiosity), and others just insist on testing the waters, seeing what may occur if one digs deeper. Persistent and courageous some appear to be who aren’t content with just sitting back. They want to uncover, they want to contemplate, and they want to say, “Hey, I know what’s really going on and I’m not OK with it!” Ewan McGregor did this last year in Ghost Writer and Jack Nicholson did it over 35 years ago in Chinatown. The decision to plunge deeper into a corrupted abyss can have fatal ramifications. Matt Damon, you are up. It is now your turn to make the plunge.
The Adjustment Bureau places Matt Damon as David Norris, a charismatic New York congressman who is running for Senator. Damon looks the part (his exuberance and charm). He can be associated, in the few scenes we see of him running for Senator, with John F. Kennedy. But comparisons are for a later time. When David is practicing his concession speech in a grand bathroom he believes he is alone. A pin or earring hits the floor, catching the attention of David. There emerges out of a stall a beautiful and intoxicating lady, Elise, a professional ballerina played elegantly by Emily Blunt. With ease and delicacy the two begin a conversation as if they’ve been familiar with one another for years.

The chemistry between Damon and Blunt is never weakened by a dull moment. In fact, every time they meet after this it seems their chemistry only heightens. The two make anything they do desirable, whether it is a late night walk down a New York City street or a lunch date, everything they do coincides and is in harmony with the meaning of love. But from their initial meeting it seems as if they are destined to be lovers, artfully composed lovers that is, even when in the face of any indomitable or formidable forces. Could they have possibly anticipated being pursued by The Adjustment Bureau?
Lurking in the shadows, sewer systems, and time space is a group mostly compromised of men in gray flannel suits and fedoras who claim they are a people who make sure things happen according to plan. The headmaster (Terence Stamp) gives a wonderful speech on their history that is reminiscent of Welles’ “Cuckoo Clock” speech. They have the ability, by simply wearing their fedoras, to open any door, which on the other side can be anything: Liberty Island, Yankee Stadium, or a desolate, massive warehouse. By having this ability they can never be outran.
No one sees these people carrying out their plans, which are little things that cause no mass ripples in society. They may cause you to lose your keys or spill coffee on your coat; such trivialities that happen to set you back a couple of minutes. But David stumbles upon them after Harry (Anthony Mackie), a member of the Bureau, failed to set David back a few minutes. He then sees their identities. Richardson (John Slattery) brings David to an alternate universe where they explain to him that he cannot reveal what he saw or he’ll have his identity reset. And since he was supposed to be set back a few minutes, he should’ve never encountered Elise for a second time. The Bureau’s plan is to make sure David remains out of love with Elise.
What keeps this film going is its determination to encounter romance as if it has never before seen another romance film. We are brilliantly strung along to witness the fruition of two strangers becoming determinant lovers ready to confirm their love to one another while encountering invidious situations that test their love. First-time director and screenwriter George Nolfi (screenwriter of Bourne franchise) approaches the subject of love with undivided attention, vividly evoking a relationship that is forceful and effectual. And in the process tells us that love and freewill are the two strongest forces our world has known. Intentionally, he directs the science-fiction theme to linger, almost to a point of idleness, behind the romantic theme while he allows the latter to ascend to eminence.
This is perhaps upsetting to fans of Philip K. Dick’s novel, The Adjustment Team, which has little romance in it at all. But Nolfi makes happy filmgoers who want to experience the glowing pleasures of true love rather than convoluted narratives, blood, and heavy use of offensive language. It is a modest film, never really breaking through and giving us that emotional pang we desire. But The Adjustment Bureau, as cold and lifeless as the title sounds, which could’ve easily sunk into the ineffectual repository of, say, an Inception, pursues the charms associated with true love and delivers them with a dynamism that the arena of love hasn’t been familiar with recently. 

Rating: **** out of *****


  1. I actually enjoyed the movie, but thought they muddled the theology a bit. Does this film make the case for predestination? http://duckduckgrayduck.wordpress.com/

    Comment by Duck Duck Gray Duck — March 5, 2011 @ 9:08 pm

  2. Ya. Or pre-predestination.!!!It is tough to make a film with this subject matter and not make it muddled.

    Comment by John — March 6, 2011 @ 9:52 am

  3. It reminds me too much of this Twilight Zone Episode:


    Same thing as with The Box last year, no inspiration to create new stories….

    Comment by Diego De Fuentes — March 7, 2011 @ 11:35 am

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