Adjustment Bureau, The


Matt Damon plays with fate and Emily Blunt

Main Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt

Director: George Nolfi

As time goes by I’m learning to appreciate Matt Damon as both an action guy and a sensitive guy.  After bursting into the Hollywood big time in 1997, winning an Oscar with Ben Affleck for writing Good Will Hunting, Damon saw great success in the likes of Saving Private Ryan, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and two trilogies – Oceans and Bourne .  His 2011 sleeper, The Adjustment Bureau, takes advantage of both Action Matt and Sensitive Matt and delivers a decent flick.

We enter The Adjustment Bureau as Congressman David Norris (Damon) is about to win his bid for the senate.  When it blows up in his face and he needs to prepare to give his concession speech he meets a quirky, impulsive and very pretty young woman (Emily Blunt)…in the men’s room.  The two hit it off and the encounter sparks the most honest – and rousingly successful – speech Norris has given in his entire political career.  If only he knew the name of the woman who inspired him.

Throughout these scenes we see a group of men whose job seems to be to shadow Norris.  They look out of place with their dated suits and hats and are singularly focused on the minutia of the congressman’s schedule.  They are not happy about that men’s room encounter.  Fortunately it seems unlikely to be repeated…until the two meet by chance on a city bus.  Now there are men in dated suits flitting willy-nilly around New York City, trying to intercept the pair who are once again getting along famously.  Who are they and why are they so consumed with making sure that everything happens to Norris precisely as they intend?  They, my friends are The Adjustment Bureau.  To find out who they are and what they want, you’re going to have to see the movie.

The Adjustment Bureau didn’t last long in theaters and shot right to DVD – primarily due to poor marketing.  It really isn’t a sci-fi action thriller.  It’s a sci-fi romance with some action.  Know that going in and you’re likely to appreciate the

emphasis on dialogue and emotion over car chases and gun fights.

The single most important element in any romance – and particularly one like this that involves precious little actual time with the two principal players together – is the likability of the pair as a couple.  This needs to be established in their very first scene and if the filmmakers fail to make us want the two together, they’ve lost us, no matter how intriguing the obstacles keeping them apart.  Fortunately for writer/first time director George Nolfi (who also wrote The Bourne Ultimatum and Ocean’s Twelve) he and the actors nail it.  The dialogue in the men’s room scene is cute and witty and we understand why these seemingly very different people like each other.  Damon does a nice job with the low key humor and affable nature of Norris and Blunt is pretty adorable as the spontaneous and outspoken Elise.

Along for the ride are the members of the Adjustment Bureau – in particular Anthony Mackie and John Slattery.  They’re shadowy men with an important job but they aren’t above some emotion as well as a little tomfoolery.  One complaint I have about the film is that it could use more levity.  The places where it’s used work very well and all the characters have room to expand that aspect of the movie.

On the more boring end of the spectrum is the entire arena of politics and Norris’ run for the senate and other aspirations.  His campaign manager, Charlie (Michael Kelly), is mostly wasted in a thankless role.  The necessity of a framework of “important work” for Norris becomes obvious, but I wish they had chosen something else.  The film is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick which I have not read, so perhaps it’s a matter of being true to the source material – but in this case I wish Nolfi had taken some artistic license.

Overall, if you go into The Adjustment Bureau knowing that it’s really mostly a romance you’ll enjoy it.  The sci-fi and action are fun and all the players do a nice job with the concepts and execution – just don’t expect an action packed thriller.  Both Damon and Blunt are appealing and the screenplay and dialogue well written.  I understand that the DVD has some great extras revolving around the scenes that hop through downtown New York City and I’m sure they’re fabulous.  The special effects used to create the scenes are certainly high tech but the result is a little campy and very engaging.  4 stars out of 5 and recommended for fans of Damon or sci-fi romance.

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