Review: The Adjustment Bureau

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

PLOT: David Norris (Matt Damon) is a promising young politician, who- after a crushing defeat, meets and falls in love with a dancer, Elise (Emily Blunt). There’s just one problem; David was never supposed to fall in love with Elise, and their union throws their carefully designed life plans, maintained by the “Adjustment Bureau”- a group of fedora wearing angels or caseworkers, awry. They try to reason with David, but his love for Elise runs too deep for him to drop her, and he decides to take destiny into his own hands- pitting him against the entire bureau, including hard-bitten agents Richardson (John Slattery) and Thompson (Terence Stamp).

REVIEW: THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU is a film that’s far better than the somewhat tepid trailers would have you believe. Granted, the idea of our destinies being decided by someone other than ourselves has been done before, and in more thought-provoking fashion, in films like DARK CITY or even THE MATRIX. What makes THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU unique is that it completely strips the film of its sci-fi trappings, making it into a love story, and a rather moving one at that.

This is the type of film that could have easily fallen apart had it not been for the palpable chemistry between the two leads, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. This is a great role for Damon, allowing him to show a different, more vulnerable side than he did in the BOURNE series, or THE GREEN ZONE. In some way, it reminds me of his work in HEREAFTER, where he played a lovesick psychic, and he brings the same, immense likability to this role.

The bureau tries to keep David away from Elise because they know it will throw him off his life-path, which is supposed to lead to the highest corridors of power- with him being a born leader. In another actor’s hands, David might have come off as selfish, with him willing to throw away a chance to better humanity for a chance at true love. With Damon playing the role, we get it- and see that if the choice is between living with love, or without (no matter how much power it grants him), there’s really no choice at all.

It helps that the object of his affections is played by Emily Blunt. I think a lot of us might be willing to sacrifice a lot of things to have someone as lovely as Blunt at our side- and their chemistry is spot on. What makes them such a likable couple is that you truly feel like they love each other, with this being one of the few recent movies where the romance is totally convincing. I also appreciate that Blunt was allowed to hang on to her English accent, which makes her seem like a unique match for David, with the two of them feeling like they come from wildly different backgrounds, but are only tied together by their innate chemistry.

Special praise has to go to Anthony Mackie, of THE HURT LOCKER, who plays Harry; the one agent of THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU who sympathizes with David’s plight, and is willing to help him. I thought this was a great choice, as, according to the film, Harry’s been following him around his whole life- which would naturally inspire a kind of quasi-parental bond with his subject.

My only problem with the film is that, at nearly two hours, the film feels a tad sluggish at times, and perhaps a little routine. It marks George Nolfi’s directorial debut, and he does a fine job, but I just felt like a little more energy could have been injected into the film. Thomas Newman’s score, which sounds exactly like every other score he’s written lately, doesn’t help matters tremendously. I also thought Slattery and Stamp’s characters could have been a bit more menacing, as I never really felt David was in any danger from them. Then again, they’re supposed to be angels of a sort- so I guess it fits.

Considering how sick I was of seeing this trailer play over and OVER before movies throughout the last year, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. It’s a damn fine film, and a great popcorn movie with a little more heart than we might normally get from this type of film- which makes it unique, and something that should be appreciated.

Review: The Adjustment Bureau




About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.