The Adjustment Bureau is not your normal film. It lives in the real world, but then it doesn’t. It’s complicated.
But first, here are the deets:
Written by: Based on the Phillip K. Dick story “The Adjustment Team” w/ screenplay by George Nolfi
Directed by: George Nolfi
The movie opens with a brief allusion to the possibility that something very unexpected and unusual is going on.
David Norris (Damon) is a rising political star. As a young congressman from New York, he is on the verge of winning a senate seat when his opponents find some dirt on him. Having trouble coping with the apparent loss, Norris goes into a men’s room to work on his concession speech. While there, he runs into Elise Sellas (Blunt), although he does not learn her name at this encounter. There is an immediate connection between these two, which is handled very well by the actors, writer and director. The encounter ends quickly, but leaves a lasting impression on Norris.
Norris spends the next few years in private life, clearly thinking about the encounter with the girl in the bathroom. It is during this segment that we learn that there appears to be a team of operatives that are making adjustments to the happenings of the world. One of them makes a mistake which leads to Norris getting on an earlier bus than that which they wanted. Norris sees Elise and things take off from there.
The story follows Norris’ fight to be able to be with this woman whom he seems to know is his soulmate. The feeling is obviously mutual. While Norris fights to be with her, he is confused throughout as to why this team of adjustors wants to keep them apart. Adding further tension is the fact that he is supposed to be running for Senate again.
The story explores the concepts of fate, free choice, the existence of a ‘plan’ devised for people by some unseen force, and the power of human love and will.
Nolfi, the writer/director, does a remarkable job with this film. He developed excellent characters from the Dick story and he seems to have a real ear for truth in dialogue. I’d say that the exchanges between Norris and Elise were one of the major highlights of the film. There is a lot left unsaid, but very well understood, which I think is very true to real life.
The romantic tension and conflicts are very real and wonderfully motivated. Damon’s performance as a determined and confused man who is very much in love and who finds his world screwed up is excellent. Emily Blunt does a remarkable job. Is she a dancer? Because she plays a dancer in this movie and is really something lovely to look at with her grace and movement.
The action moves along well, with Damon easily able to carry the movie– and then along comes Terence Stamp. I’ve seen Stamp do both a good and a bad job in his acting, and his work here is excellent. He and Damon work very well in their scenes together. Stamp plays a bigwig, or a mess-cleaner, in the adjustment team and you might think that he would be flagrantly menacing. But he’s not. He’s quiet spoken, unhurried and all the more menacing for it.
This movie is so effective because at its heart, despite the issues of who the adjustment bureau really is and free will, it is a very nicely done love story. Blunt and Damon pull the story off so well, too! There’s no moony eyes, drawn out moments of melodrama, or anything like what you’d expect in a rom-com. These people share a powerful connection and this is very well portrayed in the eye contact, easy manner of the two together, and how the characters change when in each others’ presence.
It’s a movie of ideas, but also of tension, real connections and love, and it is remarkably believable. It doesn’t harp on how the adjustors do what they do, who they are or anything like that. The audience gets allusions and must fill in the spaces. I think the film might have explored the adjustors more, but that would have changed the movie too much and not for the good. Despite the fantastical elements, the film is very believable and establishes that it is happening in the real world, with appearances by John Stewart (several appearances by the way) and James Carville and Mary Matalin.
Overall, this is an excellent film.
4.5 out of 5 pens.
5 out of 5 cameras.
5 out of 5 screens.
(Pens represent writing, cameras represent acting, and screens are a combination of all the film’s elements)