Thursday, March 3, 2011
You know when something feels “right,” and everything in your body is telling you it’s the right thing to do? That impulse is at the heart of The Adjustment Bureau, only the hook is that it’s a feeling that’s manipulated by an outside, omniscient source that has no regard for your wants or desires. Its mandate is solely to do what “it” believes is best.
An intriguing premise for sure, and it’s pulled off reasonably well by director George Nolfi, who wrote the script based on a Philip K. Dick short story.
The “it” pulling the strings is a god-like figure referred to as the “Chairman,” and the people who work under the Chairman are members of the titular Adjustment Bureau. Religious devotees may see connections to God, disciples, etc., but before you cry blasphemy know that you’ll be tickled by the identity of the Chairman when it’s revealed. Until then he/she is referred to only as a person who keeps the world on track for the greater good, and is presented as someone we should be grateful for.
Of course, there wouldn’t be a story if everyone were so grateful. Hotshot aspiring senator David Norris (Matt Damon) has a very bright future according to the Bureau, but it doesn’t include the love of his life, Elise (Emily Blunt), whom he keeps encountering on chance events that the Bureau cannot control. With the Bureau trying everything it can to keep them apart, David and Elise avoid the Bureau in any way possible, including the use of the Bureau’s own magical doors that connect various locales in New York City.
The story would be laughably bad if we did not believe David and Elise are in love and deserve to be together, so thankfully Damon and Blunt keep us rooting for their characters throughout. This is more of a challenge than you might think: David and Elise meet during a brief encounter, which is followed by months apart, then they meet and fall deeper in love only to endure years apart after that. Even after the Bureau tells them they’re not meant to be together they never doubt their love, and because they don’t, neither do we.
There are interesting thematic questions in play here, specifically the idea of destiny vs. fate, which The Matrix also presented before making our minds go numb with endless action and two sequels. If nothing else, the film will get you thinking about the forces (if any) that control our lives, and speculating what our futures might hold. Any movie that opens our eyes in such a way is certainly doing something right.
That’s not to say it gets everything right: Nolfi also gives us some unimpressive action sequences, and you will leave with unanswered questions. Also, the last third of the movie all but derails the intrigue that has come before it, but not entirely, so The Adjustment Bureau warrants a marginal recommendation.
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (2½) Directed by George Nolfi • Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt • Rated PG-13 •At Century Cinemas Del Monte, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas, Lighthouse Cinemas.