Free will is at stake as Matt Damon and Emily Blunt star in The Adjustment Bureau, a sci-fi thriller with a passionate but predictable romance.
The Adjustment Bureau is pleasing enough with fine work by Damon and Blunt. The chase scenes are exciting. The mystery of why the Bureau is so interested in preventing the hot romance between New York Congressman David Norris (Damon) and ballerina Elise Sellas (Blunt) is revealed gradually.
Yet those who have heard such conspiracy tales may yearn for a more original twist on the short story Adjustment Team by Philip K. Dick. You won’t find that here.
The film doesn’t venture too deeply into its premise, that benevolent aliens (who look human) control our individual destinies – for our own good, they insist. Wearing hats and suits, they resemble Men in Black.
Lacks depth, originality
First-time director George Nolfi did adapt the script successfully to appeal to a broad audience. He’s a director to watch out for as his honest, upfront work continues to evolve. Nolfi also wrote The Bourne Ultimatum (2007); The Sentinel (2006) and Ocean’s Twelve (2004).
Right after Norris loses a Senate campaign, Richardson (Mad Men’s John Slattery) tells him that following The Plan is best for his future and Elise’s. The proof? He and the other agents carry small, electronic books that show The Plan unfolding. Any false move by Norris is immediately flagged and sends the agents scurrying.
Realistic conspiracy tale
The film is so realistic that it made me wonder whether our own nationally elected officials have been visited by such Mad Men lookalikes.
When a big gun is called in to reason with Norris (Terence Stamp as foreboding Thompson), the upstart remains bull-headed. Disaster looms. He’s warned that his decision could wreck the world’s future.
Agent Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie, intensely emotive) befriends Norris.
Norris’ ultimate price to pay for disobedience would be a dreaded “reset” (the equivalent of a lobotomy). Only the Chairman, a man “we have all met” who could “look like anyone” has the power to intervene.
Cameos by Michael Bloomberg, Jon Stewart and other talking heads add authenticity as Norris pursues national political office.
Damon makes a dynamic, honest politician. A college mooning prank, offensive to voters, is not serious enough to keep Norris from running again for the Senate. Michael Kelly plays his loyal campaign manager.
The handsome visual style of the film reflects Nolfi’s love of architecture. Production designer Kevin Thompson, location manager Rob Streim and cinematographer John Toll tapped New York City locations including the roof of 30 Rockefeller Center; the New York Public Library; the Custom House in lower Manhattan; the Waldorf Astoria Hotel; the South Street Seaport area; the West Village; the field at Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Park. (3.5 out of 5 stars)
If you like The Adjustment Bureau, you might enjoy: Green Zone; Hereafter.
The Adjustment Bureau 2011 / PG-13 / 1 hour, 46 min
Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Michael Kelly, Terence Stamp
Director: George Nolfi
Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller, Drama, Romance