Suspending disbelief is typically the hardest thing to do while watching a movie. But perhaps, it’s the most necessary. That’s certainly the case with George Nolfi’s new film that relies and centers on the premise of preordained, set-in-stone plans that are already made for us. Based off the wonderful short story by Philip K. Dick (writer of Minority Report, Blade Runner and Total Recall), The Adjustment Bureau is a refreshingly smart and unique film that’s certainly unparalleled to anything out in the theaters right now. Then again when you have films like Justin Bieber Never Say Never and Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son out, that’s not saying much.
Matt Damon is one of the best working actors we have in the entertainment business. There’s no two ways around it, whether he’s manhandling people in the Bourne Trilogy or solving mathematical equations in Good Will Hunting, he brings his A-game every time out. The Adjustment Bureau is no exception. Much to my surprise, he actually plays a love interest rather well by generating empathy and making his character easy to relate to.
Damon plays David Norris, a middle-aged politician striving for a seat in the US Senate. Unfortunately, after a couple blunders and a big scandal revealed to the media, he loses his desired position. Though, at the same time whether by chance or good fortune, David meets the girl of his dreams, Elise Sells (The exquisite and charming Emily Blunt), a free-spirited ballet dancer who’s more than a bit mysterious and attractive in David’s eyes. Not long after, another chance meeting with her on a public bus seals the beginning of their love story.
The foundation that the film lies on is predestination. David has fallen in love with Elise, and vice versa, but when certain men with sharp suits and dark hats keep appearing in his life, something must be up. David eventually meets two of these men, Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) and Richardson (John Slattery). The two agents explain that they work for an Adjustment Bureau: an organization designed to make corrections in people’s lives, which by in large (with the exception of chance) are preordained, and predetermined.
Problem is, according to their life scripts, David and Elise were supposed to meet only once, and never see each other again. However, David being the stubborn and impulsive person he is decides to go against, as it may appear “the Gods”, and track down the one person that makes him happy, Elise. The pictures must and does transcend into some climatic chase scenes in which the bureau is running after the two lovers. As the picture drags into its prolonged third act and into the fourth, we get the sense that the film would have benefited from some more daring decisions in its plot.
That brings me to the negative aspects of the picture. The script written by George Nolfi gets tiresome and by the latter part it’s quite evident that The Adjustment Bureau has been stretched out into a feature length film from it’s original short story. Also the lack of urgency in a lot of the characters dialect seems idiosyncratic to the films tense and serious premise. Those small, but crucial aspects are the core reasons for the films shortcomings.
With that being said, The Adjustment Bureau, comparatively to the continuous uninspiring and pathetic films that have been released these last couple of months, is a step up. Damon proves his competency as a romantic lead and same goes for writer/director George Nolfi who shows that his previous hits, Ocean’s Twelve and The Bourne Ultimatum, were no flukes.
I must say from the look of all its advertisements and trailers, I expected it to be more of a science-fiction movie, but it’s not. The film is about true love and the great lengths people will go through to obtain it. That is not to say the sci-fi undertones are not done well, because they are. What the film truly questions is the notion of free will or lack thereof. The two protagonists take undeniably large risks, scene after scene. And yet all of those aspects and underlying meanings could not be perceived without the great chemistry between Blunt and Damon. The two are very talented actors, who play of each other with perfection. Which in hindsight is the reason we focus on their relationship rather than some of the small issues in the films mechanics.
For all the misfires and its sometimes less-than audacious script, The Adjustment Bureau does a good job of infusing an intricate and engrossing storyline with remarkably good performances. Sure, the film’s premise is often more ludicrous than Charlie Sheen on “7 grams of cocaine”, but hell, after the suffering of watching “Just Go With It”, I think we all need a film with some true entertainment value, right?
Note: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image, 105 minutes
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