Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau [2011, Nolfi]

The Adjustment Bureau [2011, Nolfi]

The Adjustment Bureau [2011]
Director: George Nolfi
Genre: Romance/Sci-Fi/Thriller
Language: English
Country: USA

The Adjustment Bureau is a jack of all trades. Action, fantasy, sci-fi, thriller, romance. There is something for everyone in director George Nolfi’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story, “Adjustment Team”.

Matt Damon stars as David Norris, a young, brash New York Congressman with an aspiring political career. In 2006, he is gunning for a Senate seat and looks to be the front runner until some embarrassing pictures of his college antics turn up. He loses the race but meets the sexy and mysterious Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) right before he is to make his concession speech. As if by magic, there is an instant connection between the two in their brief but passionate encounter, and this inspires David to give a no-holds-barred speech, easily the best of his career. This breathes new life into his political career, but all he can think about is Elise.

The Adjustment Bureau [2011, Nolfi]

The potential relationship between David and Elise has omniscient barriers that are determined to keep them apart. This group of “case workers” as they like to be called is known as The Adjustment Bureau (made up of an impressive cast including John Slattery and Anthony Mackie). They keep track of everyone’s lives in order to make sure that everything goes according to the plan. One day David stumbles upon the Bureau in action and learns about their methods. They agree to let him live under two conditions: he cannot tell anyone about them (and if he does, they will erase his memory) and he must never see Elise again. Even with some knowledge of his potential future, David dares it all just to be with Elise. And that’s where the romance comes in.

The love plot leads to some predictable moments, but the movie is still quite enjoyable. The issues of fate and destiny are discussed in an intelligent and respectable manner, never opting to shove religion down our throats. I was very pleased with this, especially after watching the atrocious Book of Eli, a film that leaned far too heavily on religious themes. The Adjustment Bureau brings up some interesting ideas about whether there are forces beyond our control that keep our lives on track, and if “fate” can be avoided.

The Adjustment Bureau [2011, Nolfi]

The movie has two more-than-capable leads in the form of Damon and Blunt, and they have great chemistry together. During the heated bathroom sequence early in the movie, it is easy to see the instant connection between them. Damon, in particular, is on top of his game here, effortlessly playing the charming and charismatic politican. Blunt also does very well with what she has to work with here, although I would have preferred a little more depth to her character. The aforementioned Slattery and Mackie are great as part of the Bureau, especially Slattery who is in prime Mad Men form. Terrence Stamp also gets in on the action as the gruff advisor known as “The Hammer” who is sent in to take care of the escalating situation.

I can see how some viewers might be turned off by the movie — its last 15 minutes can get a little silly — but I was still pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it overall. The Adjustment Bureau has an interesting concept that brings up some thoughtful questions, and it is led by a very strong cast. Ambitious and inspiring, this film is well worth seeing.


12 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau [2011, Nolfi]

  1. Castor says:

    I was slightly disappointed by this movie. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt has good chemistry but the romance never really feels epic enough and it becomes a bit silly in the last third when he goes back to get her a 3rd (or is it 4th?) time at which point the most realistic reaction would have been her smacking in the face and stomping on his head 😉 And the guys in the hat just weren’t menacing enough.

    • Eric says:

      All valid points, Castor. I agree that the Bureau members could have been more menacing, but I still dug their vibe. Then again, that could be just because I am a big fan of John Slattery. 🙂

  2. Dave says:

    What I actually enjoyed about the film was the fact that the members of the Bureau weren’t menacing at all. I think it would have been predictable and cliched to see those guys with guns. If they went around threatening to silence our heroes, the tone of the film would have been entirely different. It would have been too dark, too sharp in contrast of the frothy misadventures of Blunt and Damon. The fact is that it’s a romantic comic adventure. Yes, the bureau members are the antagonists of the story, but they aren’t bad guys, per se. I found their demeanor enlightening and rather refreshing.

    Great review, Eric. On all other points, I think we’re on the same page here.

    • Eric says:

      Thanks, Dave! That is an excellent point. I think it would be interesting to see a darker version of this movie, but you’re right — it wouldn’t really mesh well with Damon/Blunt’s shenanigans. Glad to hear you enjoyed the film as well. It seems to have decidedly mixed opinions, but I liked it quite a bit.

  3. paolocase says:

    Blunt and Damon obviously shine in this.

    It’s strange how naturalistic the film is. Shooting on location, a relatively ordinary sense of style from the costuming and music. And for a science fiction, it didn’t seem palatable to me, but the more I think about it, the more I admire the director’s ambitions.

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