The Adjustment Bureau – A Review

9 04 2011

The concept behind The Adjustment Bureau is quite original, and first-time writer/director George Nolfi should be congratulated for bringing it to life on screen. As an adaptation of a Philip K Dick story, this science fiction, fantasy, thriller (with a hint of romance thrown in) starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt is hugely entertaining.

Damon plays talented New York politician, David Norris who is on the brink of winning a seat in the US Senate when he meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Blunt), a free-spirited woman unlike any other he has met before. The spark between them is instant, but just when you think they are going to fall madly in love and fly off into a perfect sunset, think again. Remember, this is a thriller of sorts. And it would seem that fate, destiny, the universe (whatever you want to call it) has another plan – specifically that the two of them are not meant to be together.

Enter Richardson (John Slattery), a no-bullshit agent of Fate, who seemingly takes great delight in telling David that his life’s path is being overseen by a higher power, known only as The Chairman, and that the members of The Adjustment Bureau will do everything in their extensive power to keep the both him and Elise apart. It’s not surprising that this doesn’t bode well with David, who refuses to accept what has been predetermined and risks everything to be with the woman he loves.

The aid of rookie agent Harry (Anthony Mackie), who fulfils an almost guardian-angel role as the only agent with a conscience, and the involvement of malevolent head agent Thompson (Terence Stamp) provide elements of wry humour that add little to the story, but do make it more watchable.

The supposed climax of the film is the cat and mouse pursuit that was reminiscent of Inception with a series of mind-bending twists and turns that take advantage of the New York scenery. Stepping in and out of doors into locations filmed everywhere from the Brooklyn waterfront, to the Statue of Liberty to the Museum of Modern Art serve as a portals of perception. But as an action sequence, it just doesn’t feel all that exciting.

What Nolfi has done well is challenge our own perception of fate, free will, emotion, chance and destiny. The Adjustment Bureau will certainly have you questioning those things.

The Adjustment Bureau has also got ‘chemistry’ down pat, with both Damon and Blunt delivering committed character performances. Elise’s jibes towards David and his heart melting at the mere sight of her dancing, generate the sparks that make their need to be together, despite their personality differences, all the more believable. It’s what makes you shout out ‘Yeah!’ when David finally makes the decision to fight for the relationship.

Had The Adjustment Bureau taken more chances it could have been successful in living up to its sci-fi/thriller scenario, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, this film succeeds in being clever and entertaining, and therefore worth a view. 

The Verdict: 3 out of 5

Directed by George Nolfi; screenplay by George Nolfi; based on  Adjustment Team by Philip K Dick; director of photography, John Toll; editor, Jay Rabinowitz; music by Thomas Newman; production designer, Kevin Thompson; produced by Michael Bederman, Bill Carraro, Isa Dick Hackett, Jonathon Gordon, Michael Hacket, Eric Kripke, Chris Moore, George Bolfi, Joel Viertel; released by Universal Pictures, Media Rights Capital, Gambit Pictures.  Running time 1hr 50mins.

WITH: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Terrence Stamp, Michael Kelly, Shane McRae, Michael Bloomberg, Jon Stewart, RJ Konner, Jessica Lee Keller.

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