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The Adjustment Bureau Is A Bit Silly But Overall A Good Time

The Adjustment Bureau
Written and directed by George Nolfi from the short story “Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick
Universal, 2011

I was wondering how a guy with one previous film behind the camera (The Sentinel) got a big studio production with Matt Damon in the lead, and well, the connection is easy. George Nolfi is the screenwriter of both Ocean’s Twelve and The Bourne Ultimatum.   The Adjustment Bureau is yet another Philip K. Dick adaptation.  The guy died in 1982, when the first big movie made out of his work, Blade Runner, was made, and since there have been around 10 or so other books or short stories made into movies.  Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, and Minority Report are the other famous ones, but a ton of low-rent sci-fi has been made out of Dick’s work.

So it should be no surprise that The Adjustment Bureau feels like a lot of other sci-fi films you’ve seen in the past, namely The Matrix and some parts The Truman Show.  A great many of the best sci-fi works focus on the higher-power-generated utopia, keeping normal people away from the truth about their surroundings in order to keep them happy.  The Adjustment Bureau would basically be a carbon-copy of The Matrix if it contained guns and kung-fu.

David Norris (Damon) is a politician running for the Senate, and just before a sure win an embarrassing moment from the past is dug up to derail his chances.  While in a bathroom rehearsing his concession speech, he meets the beautiful oddball Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), who inspires him to make an off-the-cuff speech that propels him to the next election.  Norris doesn’t know it, but forces behind the scenes are trying to make it so that he never meets Elise again.

Those forces are the Adjustment Bureau, here given a face by Richardson (Mad Men’s John Slattery), and a sympathetic handler, Harry Mitchell (the great Anthony Mackie).  They work diligently to keep a “plan” constructed by a God-like unseen entity named The Chairman on the right track.  But chance and bad luck appear to be a part of the Adjustment Bureau as well, as Norris happens to catch the Bureau at work, something that would disturb humans deeply should they ever witness it.  There’s a decision to be made: should they wipe his memory or just level with him, making him promise not to say anything…or else?  They decide to go with the latter for various reasons.

Chance figures into Norris finding Elise no matter how many times or how long they are separated.  Apparently, an “old” version of the plan had them together, but a new plan was written later, and thus the destiny keeps rearing its ugly head.  The Bureau believes that Norris will have a political career that will translate to the Presidency and Elise will be a famous dancer/choreographer if they stay apart, so they keep trying to make that happen.  Norris has to decide whether his career and her career are more important than the everlasting love they share.

The movie is pretty silly, with some intentional and unintentionally humorous scenes.  The movie’s plot seems to go through its own change in plan from time to time.  An idea is mentioned and forgotten.  Implausibility is shooed off with a simple line of dialogue here and there.  The ending is pretty ludicrous.  For all that, we do have a decent, entertaining movie just because of its “What if?” scenario.  Damon and Blunt have some good chemistry.  Just don’t go in expecting the very best.  It’s slightly above your average summer popcorn movie, so it’s worth something.  And hey, there’s an appearance by Terence Stamp playing a character known as “The Hammer.”  You want to watch now, don’t you?

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