The Adjustment Bureau Reviews
The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, is a film that challenges architectures of confinement associated with choice and free will. It is about a rising politician in the state of New York, David Norris, who encounters a stranger, Elise, and falls in love with her. However, he is kept away from her by a bureau of mysterious men who ensure that things happen according to a defined "plan." In the face of this conspiracy, Norris chooses to defy the plan laid out for his future and risks it all in order to be with Elise. This thriller bends the form of the romantic genre to deal with important issues such as fate, destiny and free will.
The bureau is seen as an embodiment of higher power and control over the human race in the film. As intended by director George Nolfi, it is a comment on the bureaucratic structures such as the government and multinational corporations that impose themselves on us nowadays (Woerner). These "bureaus" are thoroughly entangled in the course of history and their reach into our lives are pervasive and powerful. Their oppressive actions affect not only our lives but the lives of others. Political reality is exposed in the film when Norris makes his concession speech with feisty sincerity. He speaks about how much his team spent on consulting experts over his tie color and shoe scuffing, thus, denouncing the "authenticity" of politics.
Nolfi said that he is "interested in anything that turns the assumptions of our world on our head" (Woerner). The movie does just that because it portrays human choice in a completely new and different light. In this world, humans are free agents, who pursue their own interests, "guided" or "nudged" by members of the bureau. These men alter circumstances by making small changes that have vast ripple effects. The realization that reality is externally manipulated to keep us on a certain track draws our attention to the significance of our choices, in relation to ourselves and others. Man has been known to squander free will with impulse. Thompson said that in the absence of the Bureau, humans gave rise to the Dark Ages, World Wars, the Holocaust, etc.
The film has a deep meaning at the level of form too. The members of the bureau wear dark suits and fedoras and are always seen to be in the dark. This is because the working of the bureau is discrete and should not be exposed. It also suggests that it is unnatural to proctor and correct human actions. The film portrays New York City as a gray graveyard with skyscraper tombstones. The Sun rises on the city once Norris and Elise have convinced the Chairman to rewrite the plan. These elements of form encourage the audience to sympathize with Norris and question the actions of the bureau. Despite Harry's instruction to turn the doorknobs anticlockwise, Norris and Elise turn the knob clockwise in the end. This symbolizes that the couple have accepted their fate and are willing to face the repercussions together. Norris wants to meet the Chairman and does this in order to intimate the bureau about their location. The viewers are captured by the alternation of slow and fast paced music in the film. The extradiegetic sound is slow during the kissing and dancing scenes, while it is fast during the chase and run scenes. These sounds resonate with the mood of the scenes and function in synchrony.
The bureau uses deception to meet their ends. Thompson says that Norris cannot be with Elise because her bold, playful nature would rub off on him and, thus, he would not make a future president. However, this was denied by Harry and he said that Norris would find contentment in her and would not seek to attain greater political heights. The emptiness and loneliness within him fueled his political pursuits. Although the bureau only alters circumstances and sometimes thought patterns, it makes unethical adjustments to avoid deviations from the plan. In an attempt to prevent Norris from reaching the Cedar Lake studio, Richardson makes a taxicab get into a T-bone collision, thereby harming both the drivers. Thompson is able to temporarily keep Norris away from Elise by making her fall during her performance, thus, spraining her ankle. He stays away from her after this incident because he does not want to sabotage her career and cause further harm.
When Norris asks Richardson why he feels attracted to Elise if it is not supposed to be, he replies, "It doesn't matter how you feel, what matters is in black and white." This raises the question of whether our decisions are so controlled by emotions that we need a higher power to "adjust" our lives to deal with the important things. Harry, unlike other members of the bureau, sympathized with Norris and questioned whether the plan was always right. He was advised by Richardson to subdue his emotions on the job. Harry also dozed off one morning and was unable to execute the plan. This shows that even the members of the bureau are humanlike because they make mistakes and have emotions. It is definitely a test for the adjustment bureau too. How long will they blindly follow the plan and to what extremes will they go to execute it?
I like the movie because, at the heart of this thriller, is a beautiful romance between the two lead characters, who show strong on-screen chemistry opposite each other. Love conquers all, and the forces of the human will are powerful enough to inspire the author of the plan. In the end, the Chairman respects the persistence shown by Norris and his refusal to be bound to his fate. The film ends with hope for humanity when Norris is able to write his own plan. Viewers do not mind leaving the puzzling details of the plot such as the identity and righteousness of the Chairman unexplained because of the happy ending. The bureau actually wants us to fight for our fate amidst all obstacles in order to fully appreciate our free will. The film concludes by conveying the message that we are supposed to write our own plans and use the gift of free will to make the world a better place.
As in any other movie that would carry plot holes, this film had its share of them. however, I saw much potential in the things that they could have added to the screenplay, but it would have been more work for the actors and the director.
Matt Damon and Emily Blunt's performance was probably the only thing worth the interest during the first and second quarter of the film, but it dries out leading to the grand finally.
Great chemistry between Damon and Blunt! They seemed almost natural and real in their conversations! And she's so dang pretty! I really enjoyed the acting of John Slattery and Terrence Stamp as well!
This movie, for me, turned out to be more of a romance than a sci-fi flick, but it was still a decent view. I liked the hats and especially the doors, which were super cool. But I really liked Blunt with Damon and would love to see the two of them together in another film!
The concept is a clever one and something for the mind to mull over well after you have turned it off (or left the cinema). The idea of fate is a frequently used subject and is nicely done in this, even allowing some footing for those that wish to take a religious angle to it.
The thing that carries the film is the chemistry between the two leads. Both are very watchable and their connection is very believable, making Matt Damon's life decisions all the more plausible.
The other players are good too. A nice controlled performance from Anthony Mackie (now a much bigger name in Hollywood, thanks to the Avengers franchise) and a wonderful turn from Terrence Stamp (perfect casting).
The pacing is one of the few things that let this movie down. I can see why some things were done the way they were, as the story did seem to require it. The leaps forward in time where necessary to help the audience understand the narrative and to aid the plot, but they made the film a bit fractured in places.
The story gathers pace several times throughout only to then suddenly slow to a crawl. I found this frustrating as I was quite involved and had been successfully taken along for the ride. This happened all too often and really detracts from the other elements of the film. The ending is a prime example of this in that it builds to a peak, only to 'level off' and finish quite abrubtly, rather than the ultimate finale that we expect.
Nonetheless.. I did enjoy it and would recommend it to others, if only for a new and interesting take on the control we have over our own destiny.