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John’s Rating: 7.5/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 7.5/10
(2 reviews total)
There was plenty of reason to worry about George Nolfi’s The Adjustment Bureau. The film was originally slated for a late summer 2010 release. It was then bumped back to the fall, and again to this March. But besides the delays, the film’s trailers hinted at a slightly off-putting mixture of heady science-fiction and romance—two genres that rarely mix. What a pleasant surprise, then, that The Adjustment Bureau succeeds—especially when it comes to balancing the two very different genres.
David Norris (Matt Damon) is a political wunderkind from New York City. He’s the youngest person ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and he’s on the fast track to the Senate—leading his race by as many as ten points. But David is a bit of a bad boy, and when the press starts to turn on him, he falls—hard. The good news about losing the election: He meets an amazing woman, Elise (Emily Blunt), while rehearsing his concession speech. He doesn’t get her number, but she leaves an indelible impression on him.
The next day, when David is supposed to start his new job, he bumps into Elise on the bus, and the sparks continue to fly. When he arrives at the office, however, everything changes. Everyone is frozen in time, except for some shady individuals that appear to be wiping the memory of his best friend. He runs, but is captured. The apparent leader, Richardson (John Slattery), tells David that these men are tasked with making sure everyone’s lives follow a predetermined path, and David’s second meeting with Elise was not part of his plan. He cannot see her again, nor can he speak of these individuals to anyone, or he’ll risk being “reset.” But the pull of Elise is too strong. He seeks her out again years later with grave consequences should he fail to outrun and outsmart the fates.
It’s a complicated plot that requires a lot of setup. And there’s a great risk that the payoff won’t be worth the time invested. But the appeal of actors like Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, and Anthony Mackie (as a helpful “adjuster” who sympathizes with David) brings you into the story without much reservation. And once you’re hooked, it makes it pretty easy to accept things like shadowy “angels” in fedoras working for an unseen “chairman” to control the world.
As far as science-fiction thrillers go, this one is relatively low-key. There are a couple chase scenes in which Matt Damon gets to flash his Jason Bourne-like sprinting skills. Emily Blunt, meanwhile, gets the award for worst choice of shoes while racing through the streets of New York.
With action in the background, the romance gets put front in center, which is actually a welcome surprise. Damon and Blunt have great chemistry, and while their performances overall are relatively generic, they work well off each other. As far as supporting work goes, Anthony Mackie is probably the biggest player, though Terrence Stamp (as the supreme adjuster, Thompson) is the most menacing and memorable.
The film’s Twilight Zone-esque mumbo jumbo might sound silly, and if I had any real complaint about the film it’s that it doesn’t come off as smart as something like Minority Report, another Phillip K. Dick-inspired movie. That being said, it makes for a breezy, entertaining, and surprisingly thoughtful 90 minutes. It might not be the best thing we see all year, but for March, this is a quality piece of cinema, and Nolfi, directing his first feature, should be proud of his accomplishment, for The Adjustment Bureau is a winning film.
The Adjustment Bureau
Directed by George Nolfi
Written by George Nolfi, based on the short story by Phillip K. Dick
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Terrence Stamp
Other Player Affinity Reviews
Simon thought: “Effortless chemistry is attributed to both the skills of the actors in their ability to mask themselves on screen as well as concocting an intangible connection that can only come from a true oneness: a friendship (at least on set). Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are the core of The Adjustment Bureau and not just in the sense that they are the two leads; we love, believe and hope these two will find each other amidst a noirish, science-fiction heavy backdrop. The thematic religious overtones (this film is from a first-time director, so I tread lightly) often pulse with a grunt-inducing blatantcy especially at the climax. Its stupidity in that sense is thankfully eclipsed by the strength of the prior acts, though it does manage to sink some of the good-will and cerebral ideas previously accumulated. The effects are seamless and the subject matter never less than thought-provoking; The Adjustment Bureau is easily one of the better films of 2011.” Rating: 7.5/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 7.5/10