Review: The Adjustment Bureau

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All I have are the choices I make, and I choose her, come what may

Can you defy fate? If given the option of a successful career or being with the person you love , which would you choose? This quandary forms the centre of George Nolfi’s adaptation of Philip K Dick’s short story The Adjustment Team, a romance cum science fiction that explores how the choices we make define us.

Matt Damon is David Norris, a young, ambitious politician on the brink of winning a seat in the U.S Senate. During an election rally he meets dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) and he makes an immediate connection with her. When they meet by chance for a second time the connection is cemented and David realises he’s falling in love.

This is where the Adjustment Bureau of the film’s title enter. Stumbling upon a cleanup team making alterations at David’s office , it’s a glimpse of a world hidden from reality, a mysterious group who conspire to keep David and Elise apart as a relationship with Elise would ruin his promising future.

It’s not the ‘Inception meets Bourne’ the pre-release hype suggested, those comparisons nothing more than a marketing gimmick. If there is a film it bears resemblance to, it’d be Alex Proyas Dark City, more so in the idea of an unknown force manipulating the world. It nonetheless carves out its own identity, a love story with philosophical musings on the nature of free will; the consequences of our choices and the ripple effect they have.

The film is reliant on the easy chemistry between Damon and Blunt and both sell the romance. Damon’s a politician who has experienced loss early in his life, While Blunt’s Elise has a kooky attitude and sense of liberalism, a spirit that finds a similar longing in David. It can’t hurt that she radiates beauty too.

Nolfi understands that for the sci-fi trappings to work, a simple, unobtrusive direction is better. As the camera focuses on Damon and Blunt, he allows the chemistry to fizzle between the two, and the audience believes more and more in this relationship.

The look and behaviour of The Adjustment Bureau is like a group of existential G-Men replete who keep the world in order (do they facilitate acts of evil then?). While the film does attempt a philosophical debate about free will, you sense it’s not in its remit to uncover the spiritualist tone in K Dick’s story.

Featuring good supporting work from Anthony Mackie, John Slattery and Terrence Stamp – humorously nicknamed ‘The Hammer’ – the bureau navigate the world through a series of interlocking doorways that make good use of locations in New York and supports the realistic tone with some more fantastical frills. Whether the Adjustment Bureau are mystical beings or angels is never revealed, which is a nice touch for the audience to fill in with their own theories and adds to the sense of Norris fighting impossible forces.

It does wander of course in its final third, summing the story up in a way that ends on a satisfactory, if slightly perfunctory, note.

Regardless The Adjustment Bureau convinces and though it may not fully explore its ideas, Damon and Blunt’s performances more than make up for that.

7/10

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Posted on 15/03/2011, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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