a critiQal film review The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: David Norris (Damon), a charismatic congressman who seems destined for national political stardom, meets a beautiful ballet dancer named Elise Sellas (Blunt), only to find strange circumstances keeping their sparks from catching fire.

545 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 43s)

Philip K. Dick’s short stories have gotten some good treatment in the past (“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” became Blade Runner (1982); “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” became Total Recall (1990) and Minority Report (2002) was based on his short story of the same name – among many others), so we were looking forward to good things from the big-screen adaptation of his short story “Adjustment Team” – The Adjustment Bureau.

Unfortunately, we missed it in theaters, and hadn’t gotten around to seeing it after it hit DVD mid-summer, since we were too busy watching big-screen must-sees like Thor (2011) and Green Lantern (2011). Now that we’ve finally manged to grab it on DVD, however, would we discover our wait was all for naught, or would The Adjustment Bureau exceed our expectations?

Matt Damon was able to use the experience he gained doing The Bourne Identity (2002) and it’s sequels, and tone it down a notch to play a charismatic senate hopeful who accidentally glimpses a look “behind the curtain” as Wizard of Oz fans would say. He’s spot on playing both the approachable politician and the strong-willed lovestruck fool, racing after the girl no matter what odds are put in his way.

Emily Blunt, on the other hand, starts off strong playing the disenfranchised gal who becomes the object of Damon’s attentions, but as the film progresses, and she starts becoming more and more a part of the system she at first seemed to thumb her nose at, her character becomes less and less interesting, and the viewer continually finds their focus wandering back to Damon’s amiable presence.

The cast lined up against these two lovebirds is quite a formidable one, bringing in powerhouses like Terence Stamp, and strong players like John Slattery and Anthony Mackie, all of whom give very convincing performances.

The basis of this story, despite it’s sci-fi/quasi-religious angles, is a love story, plain and simple, and Blunt and (especially) Damon bring this out over the course of the film quite well. They have a strong, if quirky, chemistry together, and when they exalt they’ve never been happier in their lives, the viewer should find themselves accepting this readily. Unfortunately, as the film progresses, and Blunt’s character begins to fade into cliched meaninglessness, her emotional attachment to Damon seems to fade as well, making viewers wonder is she’s just going through the motions by the time the film closes.

The sci-fi aspects of the film take on a much deeper tone, however, showcasing, as Wizard of Oz did, the power behind-the-scenes…only, in the case of The Adjustment Bureau, that power is much more than just an old man behind a curtain. These fellows can – and do – shape the world as they are told, neatly blaming humankind for the biggest messes (saying they had “stepped away” during the worst times in history to see if humankind was able to deal with things on it’s own).

The Adjustment Bureau has a smart mix of romance and science fiction that should have both guys and gals alike giving it a shot. And, despite a few glitches here and there (including a major one most viewers won’t think about until the film has ended), none of them should be disappointed with The Adjustment Bureau.

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