The Adjustment Bureau Reviews
I don't particularly buy that thesis, nor that the universe wouldn't have better things to do than keep Matt Damon and Emily Blunt apart, but the light chase movie is kinda fun, cutesy, and dangerous but not so dangerous that a happy ending isn't ensured.
Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Michael Kelly, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, and Terrance Stamp.
Genre: Romance, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Question: Did you ever get that feeling when you meet someone that the two of you were meant to be together? You can't explain it but once you meet them it all makes sense. It is chance or is it destiny? Who knows?
I received The Adjustment Bureau in the mail from Netflix about a month ago and forgot I had it until recently. Finally watched it yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I wasn't expecting to - can't really say why. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are usually in pretty decent films, but something about the previews just sort of turned me off. Nonetheless, me being me (of course) I put it on my queue when it was out in the theatres, forgot about the preview and then had some time to kill yesterday.
Look at the genre list above (from IMDb) and really think about it. What a combination of styles to mix together. I sort of wasn't expecting the romance to be such a large part of it. In fact, I would consider this a romance above all; and a really good one. Perhaps it's the romantic in me that nudged me to really enjoy the story. Tales about two people who are supposed to be together, for whatever reason and obstacles keep popping up and pulling them apart; however, they keep finding themselves reconnecting...those stories just get me.
Matt Damon plays a young congressman from New York who "happens" to meet a woman (Emily Blunt) in a bathroom; they chat for a few moments and sparks fly immediately. Now I won't say what happens next with the romance part but the Sci-Fi part comes in and takes over the story after that.
Here is where you can start a debate on if there is such a thing as destiny or if it is all up to chance. The "couple", let's call them, meet again and apparently they weren't supposed to according to a certain group of individuals. Why are these people so interested in this couple? I am not going to tell you that. However, this group apparently helps "guide" others towards paths that they should be on and when they veer off they come in to put them back on track. However, chance has a way of getting these two together or was it destiny?
Who are these people that want to control people's paths? Well, the film-makers tried to explain who they are. You'll see.
Of course as the The Adjustment Bureau continues the lovers find themselves in and out of each other lives. When they were together (Matt Damon and Emily Blunt) I found myself smiling watching them. Their relationship was effortless and I feel most people would kill for that these days. So I was big rooter for them to get together and stay together. What obstacles did they have; were they able to overcome them, and did they finally make it? Well, you know my answer to those questions....
One thing I will tell you about this film, I really enjoyed watching Matt Damon's character and his persistence to be with the one he loved. It was truly heartwarming. Yeah, yeah, I am a girl and all it takes is for us to see a guy drop everything for a girl. We fall for that storyline every...single...time. And I fell for it again in The Adjustment Bureau. Why did he fight so hard for her? Well, there is the obvious. He loves her - geesh, come on people. But there was more and I will give you a little hint...he knew about something that she did not. I have a feeling if she did she would have acted the same way...okay, may have just revealed a little too much but I felt like sharing today.
Also, I think both male and females movie fans will like this one. The Adjustment Bureau covers both a guy flick and chick flick quite well.
Interesting trivia - this movie was based on the short story by Philip K. Dick. He passed away in 1982 but here are a few his other stories that eventually became films: Minority Report, Total Recall and Blade Runner.
My favorite thing: Well, I will say it again - Matt Damon's character conviction to be with her.
My least favorite: It was a bit predictable, but then again I see A LOT of movies so I will let that one slide.
Length: 106 minutes
Review: 6 out of 10
But i like the originality of this movie, its interesting and intriging to keep entertained!
I liked the story, the fact that as a human race we arent ready to be left to our own devices just yet so we need some help!
I like the story and the meaning. The chemistry between Damon and Blunt is fantastic its funny and enjoyable! definately worth a watch!
Those high hopes were not realized. The Adjustment Bureau is by no means a bad movie, but it's just so ordinary and unimaginative that it comes off as a watered-down love story/thriller instead of the exciting, tense struggle it could have been. Damon and (especially) Blunt aren't really given anything substantial to do. There's an interesting sequence or two near the end, but the rest of the movie is so pedestrian that the fantastical premise is mostly wasted.
See it if you are a fan of the leads, but don't expect more than a very standard thriller with little sense of tension or depth.
The filming and CGI here is excellent, with doors seamlessly opening from one tableau to another, including a terrific scene where two Bureau agents enter a coat closet closely followed by a restaurant employee. They enter and are immediately transported somewhere else, so when the employee enters, she is now inside a claustrophobic closet. The effect is jarring, and typical of the production values of the film.
The acting is also first rate, from Matt Damon's rebellious young politician, who falls hopelessly and romantically in love with Emily Blunt, who he first meets in a hotel men's room (yes, you read right, a men's room... and yes, the explanation for such a meeting seems plausible, even while fitting into the Adjustment theme).
Blunt is marvelous as the rebellious, free spirit. A dancer who oozes life and vitality, she is at first mystified by her attraction to the politician, but senses the bond and falls for him. The chemistry between the two is palpable which makes it odd that there isn't more of an emotional weight to the film as what follows is a bit of a star-crossed lovers scenario, but with a twist. It seems that there is a supernatural (or is it super Natural) group whose job it is to make sure that people's lives run according to plan. But whose plan?
I think I'm safe in revealing that there exists an argument concerning free will here, and I found the construct a solid one. It is certainly interesting that the Bureau agents seem to have it, while the rest of us don't. Of course there has always existed the theological contradiction between free will and predestination, and taking a look at the Old Testament, you wonder about an all-knowing, all-seeing god allowing his "chosen", i.e. Angels, to openly rebel against him; thus losing evil upon humanity.
In the case of The Adjustment Bureau, the guy in charge, by whatever name, seems to be a bit more compassionate, though a bit scattered, changing "the plan" seemingly on a whim.
In spite of the first rate filming, and wonderful acting, the film does have foibles - partially due to the very nature of the text, which requires events to happen over a considerable length of time. There is no other way around this than a fade to black and then a fade in with a script saying stuff like "three years later". This is unfortunate, as it breaks continuity, but really there's no way around it in order to get any kind of cohesive narrative.
I enjoyed both Terrance Stamp and John Slatterly as Bureau agents, especially Slatterly's parlor trick mind reading scene, and Stamp's slightly menacing tactics in attempting to persuade Damon to say with the plan. All very convincing, and while the ending is a bit of deus ex machine (excuse the pun) and a bit of an unrewarding cop out, overall the film is a lightweight bit of metaphysical mumbo jumbo that, while a bit too glib and lacking the emotional weight it should have, it remains a worthwhile bit of viewing entertainment.
It's not as though The Adjustment Bureau doesn't have talent behind it. Emily Blunt has demonstrated her dramatic chops in My Summer of Love and The Young Victoria, while Matt Damon is fast becoming one of the most reliable screen actors of our time. George Nolfi, who wrote and directed the film, worked as a co-writer on The Bourne Ultimatum, which remains Paul Greengrass' best work. And it is shot by John Toll, who won back-to-back Oscars for his work on Legends of the Fall and Braveheart.
With these credentials it would be tempting to brand The Adjustment Bureau as 'Bourne-lite' - or maybe 'Inception-lite' due to its science fiction trappings. But to do this would be a great disservice to both films, since The Adjustment Bureau has neither the intellectual rigour nor the heart-stopping, emotional action of these films. In fact, it is everything that those films weren't: flimsily constructed, loosely written, glossy-looking for its own sake and with underdeveloped ideas.
What made the later Bourne films so fantastic was the ability of Paul Greengrass to marry the aggressive, hand-held action sequences to believable character drama. The Bourne Ultimatum balanced this perfectly, with none of Jason Bourne's personal quandaries getting lost in or watered down by the spectacular action. Looking at Nolfi's film from a writing point of view, you'd swear that he had written the chase scenes and let Greengrass do the rest. He does not have the skill to marry action and ideas together, creating a film which is at best silly and at worst completely shallow.
The Adjustment Bureau is essentially a perfectly decent, if unremarkable, romantic comedy surrounded by increasingly preposterous elements of science fiction. The central relationship between David and Elise does have a genuine spark about it: the romantic dialogue in Nolfi's screenplay is too witty to have been written by a committee, and both characters feel like rounded human beings with believable jobs and lifestyles. We enjoy the company of Damon and Blunt because their emotional responses seem believable, increasingly a rarity in Hollywood rom-coms.
Normally, this kind of frothy concoction would do absolutely fine. But the science fiction elements, which provide the backdrop and keep breaking into the plot, cause the more contrived moments in the relationship to become magnified. Having David give up on Elise, only to have him realise he loves her and run across a city to find her, would work perfectly well on its own. But when you have David running across the city through secret doors, which he can only pass through while wearing a trilby, it very quickly becomes ludicrous, like a bad mash-up of The Graduate and Tron.
The Adjustment Bureau does attempt to raise a number of interesting questions about fate, chance and free will, subjects which are staples not only of science fiction but of Dick's work in particular. At the centre of the film is a discussion about whether human beings are free to choose how they live their lives, or whether we are simply actors reading lines off a script which has already been written (and re-written). The film strikes an interesting balance between the two, saying that while humanity's behaviour is constantly 'adjusted', it is not possible for the Bureau to be everywhere at once or stop every bad thing from happening. They even go so far as to admit that certain things are entirely down to chance, although it isn't specified where exactly the lines are drawn.
The film does a pretty good job of demonstrating the cost of free will - or, from the Bureau's point of view, the advantages of intervention. Terence Stamp's character delivers a speech similar to Al Pacino's in The Devil's Advocate, about how Mankind has taken itself to the brink whenever 'the Chairman' has taken a hands-off approach (for instance, the Dark Ages and the Cold War). The film retunes Dick's paranoia surrounding big corporations (and Hollywood) to a more abstract moral dilemma, in which the Chairman is God and his hatted assistants are interceding angels, keeping Humanity on the straight and narrow at the cost of there being no genuine free will.
The Adjustment Bureau attempts to retune this concept further to look at the course of true love. The central relationship, between a congressman and a ballerina, follows the trajectory of most American rom-coms: all sorts of obstacles are created to push them apart, but we always know that they will somehow end up together. The Adjustment Bureau doesn't deviate from this mould, but what it does do is offer a twist on why such obstacles occur. Rather than being the result of personal attitudes or quirkiness, the obstacles faced by Damon and Blunt are created by the powers-that-be, whether God or - to go all Pirandello for a second - the writers themselves.
Unfortunately, there are two gigantic problems with the manner in which The Adjustment Bureau tackles these ideas. The first is that it is very literal-minded, and fails to bring out the moral dilemmas without resorting to blatant plot exposition. Terrence Stamp's character is effectively Basil Exposition in a sharp suit, as though Nolfi thought Stamp was too old to be running around Chicago, telling him to stay in the warehouse and talk to his heart's content.
Alfred Hitchcock once said that exposition is a pill which must be sugar-coated if the audience is to remain in suspense. If North by Northwest is the epitome of sugar-coating, then The Adjustment Bureau is like a series of big and bitter pills. Whereas Inception introduced the mechanics of the dream-state incrementally, this handles its mechanics like someone repeatedly dropping a sledgehammer. It never has the confidence or foresight to outline exactly how much of what we see is adjusted, and the conversations about the plans are shoved down the audience's throats.
The second big problem with the films is that it dodges all the big moral questions that follow from its intriguing set-up. Not only does it gloss over where the battle lines are drawn, but its payoff feels far too easy. The lengthy chase sequences in the final act are an excuse to canter through the character development when it really matters, and the rooftop scene finds the script skimming over the philosophical implications of the plan 'being changed'. In its naked pursuit of a happy, feel-good ending, The Adjustment Bureau produces the exact opposite emotional response.
The visuals of The Adjustment Bureau are also guilty of being shallow. John Toll may be a great cinematographer, but under Nolfi's instructions everything is far too glossy: the overabundance of shiny blues and metallic greys make everything look like a shaving advert, or one of George Clooney's coffee commercials. The chase sequences are a blatant excuse to get the ol' green screen out, making the action seem even less physical or believable. At every possible turn there is a pursuit of style over content, and speed over intelligence.
The Adjustment Bureau is a deeply disappointing film which lacks the depth, nuance or subtlety of the best Philip K. Dick adaptations. In Nolfi's hands what could be a potentially interesting sci-fi romance becomes something flimsy, frothy and ultimately too ridiculous. I would be lying if I said I didn't laugh, either mockingly at the film or out of charm at the central couple. But laughter isn't enough to do justice, either to Dick's material or to the central relationship, resulting in a case of squandered potential that could have been so much more.