The Adjustment Bureau
Look! It says right here that you should marry that witty and insightful critic from!

Theatrical Release Date: 03/04/2011
Director: George Nolfi
Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Michael Kelly, Terrence Stamp
Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image.
Runtime: 1 hour, 39 minutes


Would you believe we got here by taking a wrong turn?

As far as Sci-Fi Rom-Com Thrillers go, “The Adjustment Bureau” is the best one I’ve ever seen! Of course, it’s the only one I’ve ever seen so there’s that.

Based on the short story, “Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick, writer/director George Nolfi’s version adds the Rom-Com element and a touch of “Mad Men” to the sensibilities of the people doing the adjusting. It is a departure from the original material, but the core elements of a higher power who uses his/her agents to keep people on a predetermined path is still there.

However, rather than center the story on an insurance salesman, Matt Damon is brought in to be a potential New York Senator, with aspirations of sitting in the White House shortly thereafter. Emily Blunt plays a woman meant to merely adjust his path but her beauty, wit and charm (yes, I’m obsessed) turns what should have been a chance encounter into the beginnings of true love. The pair then attempt to elude the Adjustment Bureau as they try and exact free will out of a supposedly predetermined system.

There are some obvious similarities between this and 1998′s “Dark City”, along with a number of other science fiction films, wherein the general populace is unaware to the machinations that actually keep the world working but some everyman gets a peek behind the veil. The trick here is the obvious allusion to a higher power. Initially, there is some doubt as to the underlying reasons for all the people in fedoras trying to steer Matt Damon towards political superstardom; but as the film unfolds, there seems to be some hesitancy in saying “God”.

I don’t know if it was a by-product of a focus group, or if Nolfi just thought it worked better this way, but trying to be coy about this higher power and calling it “The Chairman” seems so disingenuous when the core conflict is fate versus free will. Just say what you mean and move on.

The execution of the science fiction is muddled by the religious overtones but putting those aside for the moment, the actors and methods used by their characters to keep their charges on the right path were interesting to watch. The signature fedora seen in the trailer on various people plays an important (albeit hokey) part and I appreciated that not every device used by the bureau members gets fully explained but their purposes are easily understood regardless.

Now, I mentioned this was a Sci-Fi Rom-Com Thriller at the outset but actually, if I had been arranging those elements in order of significance, the romantic angle should have been first. Thankfully, Damon and Blunt share a nice chemistry and seeing them struggle against the powers that be, all while falling head over heels for each other, is the backbone of the film.

Sadly, mixing in the science fiction and religious elements make maintaining a constant tone nearly impossible, and may be off putting to some, but if you just want to focus on the love story, “The Adjustment Bureau” will probably fit the bill. A 3 out of 5, a different director might have been able to bring all of these disparate notions together better and maybe it’s just my excitement in seeing a 2D Hollywood film but the sad sack within me enjoyed the overall experience so it gets the passing rating.

3 out of 5