Adjustment Bureau, The (2011)

March 02, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

What controls our lives: fate or freewill? The question will never be answered, but makes for a very interesting template for a film every time it’s used because there is no tangible answer. The Adjustment Bureau, based on a short story by the legendary Sci-Fi author Philip K. Dick, is a captivating film that examines the makings of fate in a fascinating way. What if there was a plan that was upheld by the agents of fate? What if one man defies fate in the name of the ideal definition of love? George Nolfi turns in a solid effort with his first feature film, as Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have natural chemistry and the film’s concept is a breath of fresh air.

Director Nolfi, who also penned the screenplay, keeps a light and tight pace where not a moment is wasted. He keeps the film simple, sparingly using CGI where he could’ve slapped some into certain scenes; instead, he keeps things looking classic. Nolfi adds some nice touches in line with the simplicity, like placing the main character, who has felt alone most of his life, in isolated open spaces. The chase scenes are suspenseful, as the characters are filmed running through a maze of doors where the other side is always a mystery; the accompanying music of the film shines during the action. In addition, not once do you feel that this becomes Jason Bourne vs. Fate during the chase scenes.

Matt Damon, playing the everyman politician David Norris, is very approachable and easy to invest in as the character is devoted to the ability of natural choice. Emily Blunt, playing the love interest named Elise, is a talented ballerina. She is spontaneous, graceful, and wholly attractive, making viewers see why David pursues her to the end. The chemistry between Damon and Blunt is very genuine, as they throw witty repartee at one another, and lock eyes like they’ve been in love with each other before their chance meeting. Terrence Stamp, as Thompson “the Hammer,” is a menacing agent of fate that can kill dreams with his words and presence alone. The other two main agents of fate, played by Anthony Mackie and John Slattery, are suitable and rather humorous.

The dialogue is done rather well, and contains a sharp humor that mixes well with the serious plot. Works by Philip K. Dick that are adapted into films are hard to do, like any other piece of masterful writing. This film does well with the source material, exposing the audience to the possible mechanisms of why things happen. Are we just all slaves to a plan that was drawn out by “the chairman”? Maybe we are. Then again, maybe freewill leads us to our fate.

Potential Drawbacks:

There are times where the film feels a bit doughy. There are some lines and scenes that just felt full of cheesy love. The third act of the film felt weak, and the ending was a letdown. To some,  the Adjustment Bureau is a complex film about fate that turns into fate being an epic cock-block. If not for the weak ending, this would have received a bit of a raise in its rating.

Some may also not like the questions that are brought up or even the concept in general about agents guiding us in our planned fate. There are times when the concept of the film gets a bit silly, but it never overshadows the fresh and interesting nature of the concept.

The film doesn’t tackle all the complexities of the concept, and this may be a nuisance to some viewers. It could have been a film that sparks intellectual discussion well after the credits roll, but the film was somewhat too neat and focused more on the love story.

Film Recommendations:

Dark City
The Nines

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