The Adjustment Bureau
Review by Jack Foley
IT’S worth tipping your hat to the ingenuity of George Nolfi, the writer and first-time director of The Adjustment Bureau, for daring to come up with a debut that dares to exist outside of any one particular genre.
Based on Philip K Dick’s short story The Adjustment Team, Nolfi’s film combines romance with high-concept sci-fi and action. It’s being marketed as a mix of Inception-style intrigue and Bourne-inspired action. But, in truth, it succeeds far more as a love story with those other elements as an intriguing backdrop.
When ambitious young congressman David Norris (Matt Damon) suffers a career setback, his life is transformed by a chance meeting with beautiful dancer Elise (Emily Blunt), with whom he becomes instantly smitten.
Rather than being allowed to pursue his feelings, however, Norris is advised against it by mysterious members of a hat-wearing organisation who are determined to plot an alternative course for him.
Over the next few years, Norris tries to prove them wrong and pursue his own destiny, being forced into several make-or-break decisions that could drastically alter the course of both his and Elise’s lives.
Admittedly, not everyone will buy into the film’s central concept of fate being orchestrated by members of a bureau who exist around us, while some will dismiss proceedings as unnecessarily religious.
Nolfi, though, maintains that the film can be interpreted on many levels and is far from religious, and wisely chooses not to dwell for too long on the sci-fi element.
Rather, he invests a great deal of the film’s time in the relationship between Blunt and Damon, whose chemistry is electric. And here’s where The Adjustment Bureau really excels.
The interaction between Damon and Blunt is better than you see in most rom-coms, while their ability to channel an everyman quality into their performances makes them a couple genuinely worth rooting for.
Nolfi also deserves credit for mixing up the film’s various elements well, seldom taking things too seriously (the bureau members display a nice line in comic exasperation, while coming across sinister when necessary) and raising the stakes nicely as he enters the action driven final straight.
But here, too, he excels, making good use of various landmark New York locations and keeping things in the balance and therefore exciting.
If there are criticisms, the final denouement concerning the bureau itself does feel a little underwhelming and it would have been great to see more of the various members, while not all of the fate versus free will plot-points convince.
But with strong support also coming from the likes of Anthony Mackie (brilliant), Terence Stamp and John Slattery, as well as a crisp running time that ensures the movie doesn’t outstay its welcome, this has to rate as a tremendously assured debut that achieves almost all of what it set out to.
Hence, while The Adjustment Bureau may ultimately fall just short of the classic status of Philip K Dick’s very best adaptations (Blade Runner, Total Recall etc), it remains an intelligent, exciting and emotionally absorbing romantic sci-fi thriller that deserves to put Nolfi on the map as a filmmaker to get excited about.
Emily Blunt on The Adjustment Bureau:
Running time: 99mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: July 4, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- George Nolfi - DVD interview (exclusive)
- George Nolfi interview
- The Adjustment Bureau Photo Gallery