The Adjustment Bureau Review
by Bret Dorman
When I first saw the preview for The Adjustment Bureau I have to admit, I was kind of pissed. Everyone was making comparisons to The Matrix or Inception because those are two of the biggest trippy Sci-Fi movies to come out lately, but really its not like those. A group of mysterious men who all dress the same manipulate people and love conquers all. Sounds an awful lot like Dark City to me. Only you take away everything that made Dark City unique and make it more palpable for mainstream audiences? Screw That!
But then halfway through The Adjustment Bureau… I kind of didn’t mind.
The Story: Senatorial Candidate David Norris meets and instantly falls in love with a life-loving beautiful dancer, Elise. But a group of mysterious strangers are determined to keep the two apart… at any cost! Also, Jon Stewart gets some silver screen time as the host of something called ‘The Daily Show’.
My biggest complaint about this movie is this; we all know where its going. Anytime you see Hollywood and ‘forbidden lovers; you know pretty much how its going to end. But its not the ending that I care about, its how we get there. And Bureau builds a good, interesting world for us to spend two hours in. But the david Norris character goes back and forth to Elise too much. He loves her. He loses her. Loves her. Loses her. Each time the stakes get slightly higher until the final moments, but everytime he loses her he tries to go back to life without her, only to suddenly in a burst of inspiration decide “No! We must be together!” I just don’t like the tug-of-war aspect of the story. If this were represented by a chart, I’d rather have one steadily increasing line with some dips here and there then one that looks like a jagged mountain range.
All nit-picking aside, Writer/Director George Nolfi (Based upon a Philip K. Dick short) manages to take the average forbidden love story with average one dimensional characters and give it a unique twist. This is a very specific world with its own specific rules and loop holes. They use the gimmick well and create a good build up to some fun chases. Bureau doesn’t have any action scenes, because the Bureau itself isn’t a malicious evil force and Norris isn’t a super hero/spy or martial arts expert. But by having The Bureau always one step ahead and giving them certain abilities, the threat and excitement of an action scene is still there.
Matt Damon creates another likable grounded main character while its easy to see why he falls in love with Emily Blunt as she charms him and the audience. The two share a good chemistry together and play well, but its The Bureau Team I’m most impressed with. Anthony Mackie and John Slattery play characters with no discernible traits or real characteristics. They are meant to be invisible and their only real interactions are with others like them who are all so focused on work. But the two really shine through and just their presence alone is enough to put the audience on edge. And extra kudos to Terrence Stamp who comes in with a big reputation from the other characters and at the point in the story he really needs to step up the game to elevate the threat of The Bureau and make sure we aren’t just getting the same old stuff over and over. And he nails it.
I like movies that embrace their own world. They don’t need to explain everything to you over and over and have their own language. The quirks and style of this movie are just enough for it to get by without tasting stale by the end. However, by the end of the year, it may be easy to forget the fun and have it just slip away with all the other mediocre movies.
The movie is pretty straight forward with its religious connections right away. Once Norris discovers ‘The Bureau’ there are some pretty immediate references to religion. But the movie isn’t in your face with them. It kind of says “yeah this is like this and you get it and we know it… so enjoy the story.” It never preaches or becomes corny stereotypes.
In Conclusion: Its nice to watch. Sometimes a little melodramtic, but the fun, excitement , and danger of The Adjustment Bureau are real.
Final Grade: B