The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

George Nolfi's The Adjustment Bureau, from a story by Philip K. Dick, is a stylish, laid-back version of a meta-thriller, mostly enjoyable despite a tendency toward the boring and bland. By the time the guy explains the hats, I was getting restless in my seat, but if you're looking for a little romance, this movie has it.

Matt Damon (Hereafter, True Grit) plays New York Congressman David Norris (I-Hollywood), a rather serious non-playboy politician who nevertheless, because of some youthful indiscretions, gets a reputation for carelessness in public which doesn't help him win his first Senate race.

It does, however, help him catch the attention of Elise Sellas, a young woman he meets in the hotel just before he gives his Senate race concession speech. It's a case of love at first sight. She likes his earnestness and the sense of fun his semi-public shenanigans seem to reveal. He likes that she is very beautiful and unconventional. They separate as he takes the podium and she goes on the run, but their initial attraction hardly wavers. He meets her again on a bus on the way to his new job as an investment banker of the people.

Then things start to get weird.

A man in a retro hat has been following Norris wherever he goes. It turns out he has an even more improbable job than investment banker of the people, which involves both Norris and Elise and their budding love affair.

Damon and Blunt's love story is pretty strong here. Their characters have believable, but not too-clever connections and sympathies which work well. Damon and Blunt have onscreen chemistry with real depth and emotion. In fact, all of the acting is very good and accomplishes its goal, even if the ultimate resolution is a bit predictable (especially for fans of the works of Philip K. Dick). I had only seen Blunt in a few films before this one. She helps make this one pretty memorable.

The best meta-thrillers--one could list The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Synecdoche, New York, Black Swan--have oblique angles in their metaphors which encourage deep thinking about life and art while still acknowledging their ultimate, beautiful mystery. This film has some of those, but slightly misses on levels of profundity and spectacle. Still, while not as good as many, it's much better than some. Most of the metaphors work well, even if somewhat overfamiliar, leaving room for happenstance in the best-laid plans.

Thomas Newman's score is patient and effective. John Toll's cinematography does aim for grandeur, and scores at most of the right times. Overall, it's an extremely impressive debut from newcomer director and veteran screenwriter Nolfi (The Bourne Ultimatum).

The Adjustment Bureau is not the best Philip K. Dick movie ever, or the greatest romance of all time, but it's pretty entertaining and worthwhile, especially for fans of Matt Damon or others involved. I mostly always feel like I get a good movie with Damon, especially lately, and this one included.


Links for The Adjustment Bureau

Internet Movie Database Entry

Roger Ebert Review

Official Site


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