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The Adjustment Bureau - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
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The Adjustment Bureau
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Directing: A-
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+



Rarely does a movie so deftly transcend such acute preposterousness. The Adjustment Bureau offers outright silliness in spades, and yet its presentation belies what otherwise might have been a fatal flaw: a total lack of logic.

Granted, that's sort of the point, in that the title agency is tasked with "making sure things go according to plan," whether it seems logical or not. Writer-director George Nolfi takes care never to make it clear exactly who or what these men in fedoras are (come to think of it: why no women, except apparently in secretarial positions?). But the script, based on a story by Philip K. Dick, certainly makes allusions to them being otherworldly. When one is asked directly if they are angels, the answer is along the lines of "Some call us that." The clear suggestion is that they are this film universe's version of God (constantly referred to as "The Chairman") and his army of aids.

If they are tasked with something as heavy as guiding fate, however, you'd think they'd be a little less fallible than they are revealed to be here. The men in hats have certain powers "regular humans" don't have, and yet the entire sequence of events in The Adjustment Bureau hinges on one of these guys making a small mistake. His error? Falling asleep while sitting on a bench in a park.

The result is that this Adjustment Bureau worker fails to make senatorial hopeful David Norris (Matt Damon) spill coffee on his shirt by 7:30 a.m., which was supposed to make him miss his bus -- which he now gets on, and by chance runs into the same woman, Elise (Emily Blunt), with whom he ran into in a bathroom not long before. Elise, apparently, is a distraction that cannot be tolerated in The Plan: she'll keep him from realizing the pre-destined fate of one day becoming President; he'll keep her from realizing the pre-destined fate of becoming a famous dancer and choreographer.

There's a lot in The Adjustment Bureau about "The Plan" (which the men in hats read in some weird book with geometrical lines animating across the pages) and "free will" and "chance" -- all things that apparently happen concurrently and independently of each other. The Adjustment Bureau is just there to nudge things in the right direction. Unless there's water around; then somehow it doesn't work.

It's not necessary to provide an explanation for everything that occurs in a story, but it's possible Philip K. Dick's story was short enough that the mystery remained in the realm of intrigue. In this movie, it's best not to think too hard about how and why things are being done, which are likely presented in more detail by virtue of fleshing out a short story for a feature film. Honestly, virtually none of it makes any sense whatsoever. (And by the way, when David asks Elise if she's a registered New York voter, she replies in her British accent, "Do I sound like a registered voter?" Since when does having a foreign accent preclude you from being a citizen? Especially when she's bumped into again in the very same neighborhood three years later?)

Miraculously, somehow all that is virtually incidental in the end, because The Adjustment Bureau is eminently watchable, both because of well-drawn characters and the actors who bring them to life. Nolfi's script may be thematically clunky at best, but his dialogue is exemplary; virtually every conversation pulls you in and keeps you caring about whatever ridiculous thing might happen next.

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have real chemistry, and embody their respective roles with aplomb. Anthony Mackie, John Slattery and Terence Stamp all impressively deliver their lines as Adjustment Bureau men with straight faces, even as they explain what they do and why. This is a movie that takes itself more seriously than perhaps it should, and yet it still works. With the exception of the very end, which I thought was both a tad hokey and a bit of a cop-out, the film on the whole is totally absorbing and entertaining. It's not quite as thought-provoking as it has the potential to be, so in the end it's still pretty much just fluff -- but even fluff is worthwhile when done well.

Emily Blunt and Matt Damon have a chance encounter that turns into a challenge for 'The Adjustment Bureau'.


Overall: B+
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Comments
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: June 11th, 2015 02:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Great movie, Matt Damon is absolutely brilliant!
1 comment or Leave a comment