After a lengthy delay – the movie was captured on film in 2009, post-production took place in 2010′s front end, the original trailers came out last summer, and the original posters promised a September 2010 opening – The Adjustment Bureau has finally made it to your local cineplex. Directed by first time helmsman George Nolfi and starring the popular Matt Damon with the very appealing Emily Blunt, The Adjustment Bureau begins smoothly. Very smoothly.
Almost before you have settled in and found the most comfortable position to sit, you are hooked. Damon plays David Norris, a young and aspiring New York politician. He’s good-looking, he’s smart, and he’s charismatic. He’s running for one of the New York State Senatorial seats, and has a decent lead in the polls before the election.
But it isn’t to be. The New York Post publishes a scandalous bit of news from when Norris was a younger and less serious man, including some very unflattering pictures. So unflattering, that the voting public changes its mind and votes in the opposing candidate, and this leaves Norris with a crushing defeat. Before giving his concession speech, he’s going to meet a mysterious woman in an unexpected place.
Well, faster than we were hooked, he is smitten. It is love at first sight. You can’t blame Norris. Elise is played by Emily Blunt, and she’s got everything he likes in a woman. She’s great looking, witty, clever, and when she says on the bus -
“Were you just staring at my legs?”
He replies,“I was defenseless against the dress.”
And so are we. But all is not under control. Their love story is not going to happen that easily. There are forces in play. They all happen to wear suits and ties, overcoats or rain coats, and fedoras. At various points in the film, we will meet some of them – Richardson played by John Slattery (Mad Men), Mitchell played by Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), and then later, their boss Thompson, played by Terence Stamp.
They tell Norris that they are the people whose job it is to make sure that things go according to plan. They tell him that they monitor to the entire world. What’s more, because of his chance meeting with Elise, they had to ‘adjust’ his plan. He was supposed to spill some coffee on his shirt, only Mitchell, his ‘case officer’ missed the moment, so the plans went south and more drastic measures had to be taken.
There’s your set up. Norris and Elise. By film’s end, you will have a chance to ponder how fate, chance, or predestinies guide us through our lives without us thinking about it in those terms. Norris even says, “All I have is the choices I make…”
But the subtext of the film is that all of those choices are controlled by ‘them’. Yes, there are accidents of chance which cause a deviation from the plan, but that is when they have to step in and make an adjustment. So, who are those guys?
Norris decides to go his own way, make his decisions, and if it wasn’t what was ordained in those ‘plans’ – so be it. He’s going forward on his own terms any way, thereby choosing love over fame and fortune. At this moment, the film makes a sharp turn from being a romance with a puzzle towards being a thriller wrapped around a love story. It is an exciting ride for us, as we, as well as Norris and Elise, never know where we are going to end up. Each time they open a door, there’s a surprise awaiting them, or maybe I should say – all of us. This was handled quite deftly, seamlessly, and was certainly exciting.
Besides that, Nolfi who wrote the script (adapted from a Phillip K. Dick short story) as well as directed, throws in a couple of surprise that come totally out of the blue, and actually made me shudder or jump in in my seat, reacting with shock, or surprise.
The main plusses of the film are the two leads, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, the not quite as bad as they seem case officers, and the musical score which adds excitement when needed.
The script had some clever lines but at times they tried to play the mystery card too often. I mean Damon actually asks Mitchell,
“Are you angels?”.
“We’ve been called that, but we are more like case officers.”
There are numerous lines that are spoken that might have you thinking about a mysterious corporation. Often they drop clues about having to kick the case upstairs, or they’re waiting for instructions to come down from a senior supervisor. And if all of that fails, well then, they’ll go right to the top, and The Chairman might have to step in.
This is a well made, entertaining, and thrilling movie. If I have to make one strong complaint, I’d say that the trailer gives away too much. The ending may have been a little too facile, or easy, or even not so satisfying. But for almost all of the film’s 106 minutes you will enjoy yourselves, and as you leave the theater you will be discussing the film in your mind, or directly to your companion. To me, that is exactly how you want to leave a theater.