Review: The Adjustment Bureau

Posted March 1st, 2011 at 11:00 pm

The Adjustment Bureau isn’t a movie that is easily described or fits neatly into a genre. Loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story “Adjustment Team” the film examines philosophy, spirituality, science fiction, politics, and romance all tightly bound within the confines of a thriller. Considering all the elements involved it would be easy for the story to run off track and lose the audience. The Adjustment Bureau however is able to deliver in every facet making for a thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Fate vs free will is essentially the basis of the story and that reverberates though the actions of the characters and those tasked with influencing the decisions they make. “The Architect” (though never referred to as God it is implied) has a plan for everyone and those working for the “Adjustment Bureau” are there to bump things back in line when they begin to deviate off their predetermined paths.

David Norris (Matt Damon) is a Senate hopeful who inadvertently deviates from that path and learns of the “Adjustment Bureau”. Not only can he never speak of it but he is told he can never see the woman who he happened upon by chance (Elise played by Emily Blunt) and immediately fell for. Every step of the way Norris fights the feelings he has for Elise while having to overcome the roadblocks placed in front of him.

The chemistry between Damon and Blunt is immediately evident. It was all the more critical given that the story relies on that to drive the developments and hook the audience emotionally to the plight at hand. The dialogue between the two was charming and extraordinarly organic. There were several genuinely funny moments, that surprisingly never felt out of place, and they both seemed to really settle into the characters and play them with a believability that is somewhat rare to see these days.

While they both turned in great performances they weren’t alone in that regard. Anthony Mackie stood out as one of the agents who displays some of the emotion that they are programmed to ignore and helps along the way. It would have been somewhat cliche to have the bureau agents (at one point it is acknowledged that some would refer to them as “angels”) act in a stiff and completely unemotional manner. Ultimately it is their job and they are just doing what has been deemed necessary. When first introduced it looked like that may be how they were represented but ultimately they came across much more human…though still somewhat mysterious and clearly on a different plane of existence.

The only thing that didn’t completely work was the use of doorways as travel device. It wasn’t until near the end of the film that they were really explained and even then they came across more as convenience than being completely logical. Despite that it made for a thrilling and unique chase sequence and the “rules” that came with it were interesting.

The Adjustment Bureau at its heart is a romance while philosophically dealing with forces seen and unseen and the decisions that have to be made in the process that is life. It is quite funny at times, tense in others, and forces the audience to ponder the same questions and filter the same emotions that the characters are facing on-screen. A very well constructed story and terrific performances makes The Adjustment Bureau one of the best films released so far this year.

Rating: ★★★★☆

The Adjustment Bureau is rated PG-13 and opens on March 4th