Review - The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau (2011), PG-12, 105 minutes - For those that read my '10 Most Anticipated Films of 2011' post, The Adjustment Bureau should look familiar (as it topped the list). For those that haven't, take a look here.

The Adjustment Bureau is based on a Philip K. Dick short story titled 'Adjustment Team' (which I have not read). I actually didn't realize this until I read it in the end credits - one more thing to add to my 'to read' list. It centers around David Norris (Matt Damon), a young, rising political star who is running for the U.S. Senate and seemingly has a lock on the seat. After a story breaks about some class reunion shenanigans, he gets steamrolled in the election. On his way to deliver his concession speech, he has a chance encounter with Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt). There's an instant attraction and after their talk he completely ditches the speech that he had planned on making and instead goes with a much more matter of fact speech that regains his popularity and vaults his name to the top of the heap for the next election.

Three months later David and Elise have another chance encounter on a city bus. Only this time around they were never supposed to have seen each other. This is where we are introduced to the Adjustment Bureau - a group that oversees everything that everyone does and makes sure that their lives stay on the 'correct' path. David's 'correct' path was supposed to see him spill coffee on himself, gone back home to change, miss the bus, and been late for a meeting. Instead, one of the Adjusters, Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) misses his assignment and not only does David run into Elise again, but he shows up on time for his meeting where he walks into the world of the Adjustment Bureau as they are correcting the path of his friend/co-worker/one time campaign manager.

Having seen 'the man behind the curtain', David is sat down by Richardson (John Slattery) and told about the Bureau and their purpose. He is also given a stern warning never to mention their existence, or to try and see Elise again. If he does so they will be forced to 'reset' (think lobotomize) him. David goes on for three years as Richardson said until he has yet another chance encounter with Elise. This is when the two of them begin making life a nightmare for the Bureau as according to the plan, they are never supposed to end up together. Mitchell and Richardson are unable to fix the problem so they call in the big gun, an agent named Thompson (Terence Stamp) who, in his time as a field agent was called 'The Hammer' for his ruthlessness in dealing with course corrections. The movie plays out from there in a battle of fate vs. free will.

Coming in at an hour and forty fives minutes, The Adjustment Bureau is a pretty well paced movie. It jumps right into the story and only slows in a couple places to help show how downtrodden David is in between encounters with Elise. The ending is a little predictable, but there are a couple nice little twists along the way. The chemistry between Damon and Blunt on screen really helps sell the relationship growing between David and Elise despite their limited encounters.

The Adjustment Bureau is an entertaining sci-fi/romance (how's that for a genre mash-up?). It may have been able to explore certain themes in a little more depth, but only at the cost of extending it into a two plus hour epic. Overall, I was quite pleased with the film. I had worried that I might have raised my expectations too high as I anticipated its release, but luckily there was no such let down. I also hadn't seen much of Emily Blunt's previous work, but after The Adjustment Bureau, let's just say that I'm a fan.











*****SPOILERS*****

- Different parts of the film reminded me of previous sci-fi films/tv shows. The scene in which David walks in on the Bureau 'adjusting' his friend reminded me quite a bit of Dark City - a 'big brother' entity messing with someone's thoughts and memories. The doors connecting the entire city used by the Bureau to pop up just about anywhere made me think of the paradoxes built into the dreams in Inception in order to help the inhabitants move more freely. And maybe it is just because I just finished a week and a half long Doctor Who marathon, but the Bureau's explanation of certain events being manipulated and others still being a natural coincidence reminded me of the Doctor's belief that certain points in time are fixed and must always happen, where as others can be tweaked.

- Just in case you have no intention of seeing the film, the predictability that I mentioned earlier? Harry becomes the stereotypical rogue unit that helps David fight back against the Bureau. David and Elise fight so hard to be together, their paths are re-written so that they do end up together.

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