The Adjustment Bureau Review


There was plenty of reason to worry about George Nolfi’s The Adjustment Bureau. The film was originally slated for a late summer 2010 release. It was then bumped back to the fall, and again to this March. But besides the delays, the film’s trailers hinted at a slightly off-putting mixture of heady science-fiction and romance—two genre that rarely mix. What a pleasant surprise, then, that The Adjustment Bureau succeeds quite well—especially when it comes to balancing the two very different genres.

David Norris (Matt Damon) is a political wunderkind from New York City. He’s the youngest person ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and he’s on the fast track to the Senate—leading his race by as many as ten points. But David is a bit of a bad boy, and when the press starts to turn on him, he falls—hard. The good news about losing the election: He meets an amazing woman, Elise (Emily Blunt), while rehearsing his concession speech. He doesn’t get her number, but she leaves an indelible impression on him.

The next day, when David is supposed to start his new job, he bumps into Elise on the bus, and the sparks continue to fly. When he arrives at the office, however, everything changes. Everyone is frozen in time, except for some shady individuals that appear to be wiping the memory of his best friend. He runs, but is captured. The apparent leader, Richardson (John Slattery), tells David that these men are tasked with making sure everyone’s lives follow a predetermined path, and David’s second meeting with Elise was not part of his plan. He cannot see her again, nor can he speak of these individuals to anyone, or he’ll risk being “reset.” But the pull of Elise is too strong. He seeks her out again years later with grave consequences should he fail to outrun and outsmart the fates.

It’s a complicated plot that requires a lot of setup. And there’s a great risk that the payoff won’t be worth the time invested. But the appeal of actors like Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, and Anthony Mackie (as a helpful “adjuster” who sympathizes with David) brings you into the story without much reservation. And once your hooked, it makes it pretty easy to accept things like shadowy “angels” in fedoras working for an unseen chairman to control the world.

As far as science-fiction thrillers go, this one is relatively low-key. There are a couple chase scenes in which Matt Damon gets to flash his Jason Bourne-like sprinting skills. Emily Blunt meanwhile gets the award for worst choice of shoes while racing through the streets of New York.

The romance, meanwhile, gets put front and center, which is actually a welcome surprise. Damon and Blunt have great chemistry, and while their performances overall are relatively generic, they work well off each other. As far as supporting work goes, Anthony Mackie is probably the biggest player, though Terrence Stamp (as the supreme adjuster, Thompson) is the most menacing and memorable.

The film’s Twilight Zone-esque mumbo jumbo might sound silly, but it makes for a breezy, entertaining, and surprisingly thoughtful 90 minutes. It might not be the best thing we see all year, but for March, this is a quality piece of cinema, and Nolfi, directing his first feature, should be proud of his accomplishment, for The Adjustment Bureau is a winning film.

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