Early Review: The Adjustment Bureau
The Adjustment Bureau is this year’s Shutter Island. Let me explain. Like Shutter Island, it backed out of its initial fall release to assume a less competitive slot in the spring. While it could have gotten lost in the saturation of Oscar season, the move to the spring makes it the cinematic equivalent of the decently attractive girl who surrounds herself with ugly friends to help herself stand out.
Or maybe Universal Pictures just isn’t giving it enough credit. As it stands, they’ve got the first great film of 2011. Not so bad, right?
The film opens with a montage of New York politician David Norris (Matt Damon) on the campaign trail to become the state’s next U.S. senator. After all the hand shaking and baby-forehead kissing, a story comes out about Norris mooning his old classmates at a recent college reunion — complete with an accompanying photo.
His detractors point to the photo revealing his immaturity (among other things, clearly), but his supporters rally around his “authenticity.” Either way, he loses the election. But in the long run he’s a winner because he meets and abruptly kisses a gorgeous ballerina named Elise (Emily Blunt) while practicing his “gracious loser” speech in the men’s room.
That’s where the agents of the Adjustment Bureau come into play. They’re the ones who keep our lives running according to fate. David and Elise were never supposed to meet one another and their mutual attraction threatens to throw off the balance of the entire world. The bureau’s powers are practically endless and they will stop at nothing to keep these two apart.
The Adjustment Bureau is the directorial screenwriter George Nolfi (Ocean’s Twelve, The Bourne Ultimatum). His script is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, the man responsible for Blade Runner and Minority Report. The outstanding supporting cast is led by Michael Kelly (Changeling) as Norris’s advisor and The Hurt Locker‘s Anthony Mackie as an agent who breaks his code of conduct by empathizing with the couple.
Working as something of a mix between The Graduate and Inception, The Adjustment Bureau is near perfect popcorn entertainment and the best date movie I’ve seen in quite some time. Damon is at his most charming and Blunt spends about 20 minutes running around in the greatest dress known to man. So hey, there’s something here for everyone!
Hitchcock didn’t relish in science fiction but I couldn’t help but notice (since the film’s poster looks a hell of a lot like the cover of the recent North by Northwest DVD release) that his influence looms large here — especially in the fantastically humorous chemistry between Damon and Blunt, which also follows Hitch’s template of casting a leading man much older than his love interest.
The film’s sci-fi elements merely underscore the romance and themes of judging success and the valuation of love vs. career aspirations. We wonder for so long exactly why they can’t be together, and when the answer finally comes out it is largely grounded in reality. Hitchcock made smart blockbusters that still managed to entertain the masses. That’s precisely what Nolfi did here. Bravo.
The Adjustment Bureau reveals that the World Wars and the Cuban Missile Crisis resulted from the absence of the bureau’s intervention. Maybe one day we’ll be responsible enough to choose our own fate. But for now just take my advice and see the film.