Review: The Adjustment Bureau

Wednesday, March 2 by

Matt Damon, if you want to make movies where you run around being chased by bad guys, why can’t you call it Jason Bourne? We like Jason Bourne. We trust you and the filmmakers to come up with more good stories for him. It’s not a bad thing.

In The Adjustment Bureau, Damon is not Jason Bourne. He plays David Norris, a senatorial candidate being followed around by guys in hats who monitor his life decisions in notebooks filled with indecipherable graphics. One day, David’s shadow, Harry (Anthony Mackie), forgets to make him spill his coffee and throws the whole plan off. David walks in on a major adjustment, so Richardson (John Slattery) and his crew chase him around.

What really causes problems is that David reunites with Elise (Emily Blunt), a woman he was never supposed to see again. The Bureau will throw minor obstacles in their way to keep them apart, but can’t do anything so major it causes a ripple in the plan.

The story has a real spiritual view, talking about the universe’s plan as if it’s a bureaucracy. It’s only an intro course though. The advanced courses would be Total Recall, Dark City or Gattaca, where characters combat fates predestined by science. (Sorry Matrix, you’re maybe an extra credit, but not an AP class.)

Writer/director George Nolfi has some fun with the dropped calls and traffic delays that can impact David’s life. The film wants us to think about the significance of seemingly minor nuisances in our own lives, the butterfly effect of sliding doors as it were. However, here it’s only in service of a safe and generic romance. Elise is the spunky rom-com girl and it seems like they’re only in love because they’re the stars of the movie.

The adjusters can open doors to make them instant portals to other parts of the city. The visual effect is seamless and subtle, but when Harry warns David to never turn the knob counterclockwise, what do you expect is going to happen? The vague description of the chairman and the files kept on all people leaves it open to interpretation, but the film does want to specify that humanity’s darkest moments, including the Holocaust, were when the adjusters left us to our own devices.

We’re getting closer to a complete movie. The Adjustment Bureau has some good ideas if it would only dig a little deeper. Maybe in another month or so we’ll get the total package.

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