By Dirk Sonniksen | March 4, 2011
Director: George Nolfi
Writer(s): George Nolfi (screenplay), Philip K. Dick (short story “Adjustment Team”)
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, John Slattery, Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp
Born out of society’s ceaseless determination to find meaning in our miserable existence, The Adjustment Bureau is a universe constructed of doors that lead in and out of the hereafter, shuffling angels dressed as extras for Mad Men to their next assignment. It’s a world that has turned God on its head, where the pseudo-religious can exist in harmonious bliss, knowing that their every move is being guided this way and that in order to bring balance to a seemingly random process.
David Norris (Matt Damon) is our hero, a man destined for greatness, but only if it is written. Elise (Emily Blunt) is the beguiling brunette that seems to keep bumping into Norris. This constant bumping eventually causes “ripples” to form, and before we know it, the whole world has gone haywire for David and Elise. Our antagonists (or are they?) see David and Elise as a threat, but a threat to what? What brand of evil could two apparently innocuous, upstanding Americans possess? It’s a mystery, and like most films of this variety—they’re on the run!
Yes, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are seemingly inseparable in this tale of celestial intrigue, with first-time director, George Nolfi, trading the keyboard for the director’s chair. Nolfi is known for penning the screenplays of The Bourne Ultimatum, The Sentinel, Ocean’s Twelve, and yes, The Adjustment Bureau. Following Nolfi’s trail, it becomes apparent that he is well-versed in crafting stories that follow a somewhat action-driven storyline, interspersed with well-crafted dialogue, and plots that can meander through genres, all the while, keeping his audience engaged.
In The Adjustment Bureau, Nolfi continues along his previous path, but what at first appears to be a rather suspenseful thriller (especially from early trailers), hastily morphs into a quirky tale that runs heavy on the romance, and light on the suspense. That is not to say that The Adjustment Bureau is an abysmal failure—it’s not. In fact, all the traits that made Nolfi’s previous screenwriting endeavors fairly successful films are proudly displayed here. Not only are we given a fluid story that is indeed engaging and somewhat thought provoking, but we are treated to another film in which Matt Damon maintains his winning streak as an actor. In addition, Emily Blunt not only graces the screen with all her splendor, but proves she can hold her own and pick a script (with The Wolfman being a slight misstep). Rounding out the cast is one of my favorites, John Slattery, an actor that continues to bowl over audiences with his jaunty, sarcastic wit.
With actors aside, another exhilarating aspect of The Adjustment Bureau is the world in which the “Adjustors” inhabit. A busy city becomes a maze of doors that lead to some of the strangest places, a fact that becomes clear as David and Elise begin traveling in “their” world. As the film progresses, so does the pace of this race through the maze of portals, giving the film a Keystone Cops kind of vibe. With The Adjustment Bureau being “very” loosely based on a Philip K. Dick short story, this zany touch is certainly a carry over, with Dick’s humor coming through, albeit a bit watered down.
Overall, The Adjustment Bureau satisfies the cinematic pallet of a slew of moviegoers, and I’m guessing that was its intended purpose. The “everything happens for a reason” people are represented heavily in this film, as are the “this kind of certainty comes, but once in a lifetime” folks. I was in neither of these camps (I’m in the “you’re a bastard” camp), but The Adjustment Bureau did manage to get all my cylinders firing—a feat to be sure. Considering I enjoyed (some more than others) Nolfi’s previous screenwriting forays, it is not a surprise that I enjoyed (more or less) The Adjustment Bureau; you might say Nolfi had me at “hello.” Add Matt Damon to the mix and my man-crush index goes through the roof. Throw in a lusty dose of Emily Blunt, and I’m done for.