A hot shot politician (Damon) running for office meets an “out there” girl (Blunt) and its love at first lip-lock. But according to a group of hat and trench coat abusing gents; them falling for each other was not part of “the plan” so they get all up in his biz and attempt to keep them apart. Big mistake. Somebody didn't see the Bourne franchise... you don't mess with Damon's broads yo! EVER!
All I wanted to know going in THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU was: What is up with Matt Damon and that freaking hat? On top of the DARK CITY similarities, that was pretty much all I had retained from the trailer. Now that I’ve seen the flick; I can tell ya that the hat has a “purpose” and yes DARK CITY came to mind, but ADJUSTMENT BUREAU did enough of its own thing to stand on its own two feet and say booya! Am now slapping on “The Surface of The Sun” by John Murphy (which was sampled in the trailer), let’s get this shit done!
Written and directed (in his debut) by screenwriter George Nolfi (he penned Timeline, Ocean 12, The Bourne Ultimatum ) and VERY loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s 1954 short story Adjustment Team; The Adjustment Bureau was a nice little surprise. I thought I would be in for another action-ish driven K. Dick adaptation a la Total Recall or Paycheck (nothing wrong with that BTW) but instead I got an old fashioned and heartfelt love story slapped in the middle of a humble Sci-Fi circus. This Bureau did what a strong Sci-Fi movie should; provoke thought as to themes we can relate to in our every day lives. Yup am talking about fate, the existence of a higher being (s), finding that one true love, professional versus personal fulfillment and free will versus destiny, which runs our lives? Social statements were also on hand to get the Lizard in my little wheel going. For example, Terence Stamp’s character had a monologue at a certain point about “why” humanity shouldn’t be given full on free will and damn did it resonate. Everybody in a position of power around the world, should pay attention to that speech, hopefully learn something and then KNEEL BEFORE ZOD while they're are it. In case you haven’t noticed; I really got into what this film explored and had to spit and yes coming out of that cinema; it had me thinking about my own life and ‘what the f*ck do I have to do” to get the Adjustment Bureau to nudge shite my way. But that’s another story.
Devoid of flashy special effects (unless you count hats) and eye popping set pieces (unless you count Matt Damon running… with a hat); THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU relied on its core to remain appealing throughout and I got to give it mad props for pulling it off. The love story here was this one’s driving force and I personally bought into it 100%. It was written in an a idealistic romantic fashion yes, but at the same time it managed to remain down-to-earth enough for it to come off as real hence affecting. Thank the smooth/charming dialogue and the astonishing chemistry that Matt Damon and Emily Blunt shared for that. Individually; both actors put out stand out performances (Blunt’s British accent was akin to an hypnotizing mermaid song …lol), but it was when they were onscreen together, when their banter kicked in and their body language spoke to each other, that the flick would elevate beyond itself. You could feel the physical and emotional magnetism oozing off every frame they were in… they were simply beautiful together and made it all happen. Add to all that jazz a gnarly sense of humor, solid production values/art direction (sometimes simplicity is best, here was one of them times), a sly capitalization of the New York setting and “winning” (that was an ode to Charlie Sheen btw) supporting performances by Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp, John Slattery and Michael Kelly and you get a masterpiece? Well close…
A couple of things held this one back from reaching the Dark City level of excellence. For starters; the directing style was a tad too pedestrian in places for my liking. Although I esteemed that George Nolfi subtlety supported the ever changing tone via his camera work (smooth shots when all was in control, hand held shots when chaos reigned) and that he didn’t intrude on his narrative/characters with his camera; a pinch of styling up now and again would have been swell. And no using a techno song during the main chase scene (Adam Freeland ’s Fever for those who care) was not what I had in mind. That so didn’t work for me. Then we had the random plot holes popping up here and there, mostly having to do with the “ripple effects” angle and the “Bureau's” powers working or failing in accordance with what the story needed. But my biggest qualm though had to do with the redundant narrative structure.
I mean the film's two major turns (plot point number 1 and 2), the one that sent
the flick into its middle section and the one that launched it to its conclusion
were pretty much the same. So basically the story threaded the same ground twice
and it somewhat underwhelmed me once the final act kicked in. Which brings me to
the finale; although emotionally satisfying; it felt a tad anti-climatic, too
easy maybe... not sure... as the end credits rolled I was craving a bit more. Not sure what I
what…but I wasn’t 100% satisfied (that's what my last date said BTW, before I
kicked her out of my house that is).
On the whole though; THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU made for a solid watch. It had a slick initial premise; asked all the right questions and where the script and direction would falter; its two excellent leads and their novel chemistry would prevail. Much like the recently released I A NUMBER FOUR; this is a movie that should appeal to both genders. You got a date coming up? This is the idyllic film to bring her, him or it to!
We get a grisly display of Matt Damon’s hat.
We get Emily Blunt’s inviting cleavage and a PG sex scene while the ladies get Matt Damon’s hat in all of its glory.
To some degree, The Adjustment Bureau was Dark City with the lights on and without the edginess. If you’re expecting a chase driven picture; this isn’t it! Don’t get me wrong there were some physical get-downs but the film was first and foremost an existentially loaded Sci-Fi tale with a genuine love story as its core, performed by two excellent actors who were beyond “on” for each other. I could’ve done without the plot holes, the finale needed some work and the visual style randomly yearned for a kick in the butt; but even with that I recommend you check it out; Damon and Blunt so made it worth my trip!
In the original ending of the film, the identity of the supreme being was revealed. They nixed that out in the re-shot ending, which is the one found in the final cut of the flick..
The short story "Adjustment Team" has no copyright to it; it is presently in the public domain in the US.
The flick cost about 51 million$ to make.