A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Follow The Plan | THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU

In sci-fi on April 10, 2011 at 10:37 pm

There’s a piece of graffiti in The Adjustment Bureau that perfectly sums up the theme of this movie: “24 hours in the day; 24 cans of beer in a case. Coincidence? I think not.” And from there the movie just got more and more amazing to me as it unfolded in front of my eyes. It’s really unfortunate that the marketing for this movie didn’t seem to know how to sell it, but that happens with so many movies I love and are glossed over by mass audiences. (Believe me, I’m more than willing to accept that I’m the crazy one.)

But that doesn’t change my opinion on this spectacular movie that I’m sure will find it’s audience and be adored a classic much like WINGS OF DESIRE; A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH and possibly even THE FOUNTAIN.

But I have to note, while I don’t get into specifics, there may be spoilers below. But don’t be afraid to read. I don’t think I ruin anything.

The story is about David Norris (Matt Damon), a man from a troubled and tragic past who is now running for a Senate seat in the state of New York. On the eve of the election he is in the men’s room preparing his final speech, when he’s interrupted by a woman (Emily Blunt). They chat for a moment. The world sparks around them; they’re dare I say, soul mates. He’s gotten in trouble in the past for punching people out and baring his behind; she’s currently on the lam from hotel security for crashing a party. After she’s chased away by authority figures David delivers the speech of his life, and the odds of him ever seeing this woman again are pretty much astronomical.

Skip three months later and we meet Harry (Anthony Mackie), who is told that David has to spill his coffee no later than 7:05 am. Sadly, Harry doesn’t make that happen, allowing the winds of chance to have David meet the woman again. This time getting her name, Elise, and her phone number. This naturally sets off a chain of events that leads to death-defying chases, psychic mind-powers, and lots of hats – mostly fedoras. Culminating in a movie that explores just how fortunate – or not – humanity is to be blessed with the gift of free-will. How guardian angels, look over us and just might be trying to set us all straight so that, well, we might not need guardian angels anymore. Suffice to say, from the acting; the writing; the ideas presented; and even the art direction; The Adjustment Bureau is a spectacular piece of art and I loved every minute of it. I’m just sad it’s actually taken me this long to see it.

Being the directorial debut of George Nolfi, who has so far mainly been a screenwriter (THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, THE SENTINEL), here adapts what might very well be the most optimistic view I’ve seen from Philip K. Dick. (I haven’t read the original story, so who knows how faithful it is.) His directorial decisions aren’t too flashy and even with the giant jumps in location and logic the movie makes – in quite a small span of time – is pretty clear. And in a few moments even, awe-inspiring – especially a certain reveal of the Statue of Liberty. I look forward to seeing this man’s not only next script brought to the screen, but hopefully him behind the camera too.

Matt Damon continues his streak of not only great roles (thinking about it, the worst thing I’ve seen him in recently was INVICTUS, and really that was just a case of miscasting. Not that he was bad – nor the movie for what it’s worth.), from THE INFORMANT to last year’s HEREAFTER. Which in a way this movie kind of walks beside, without the death-toll. In THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, within the first ten minutes, I was convinced that Damon should run for office and I’d vote for him. The biggest mistake I see in the movie with casting Damon, is having him portray a Brooklynite, when he’s so closely associated with Boston. But, what’s that say about this movie when that’s my major nitpick?

Damon’s chemistry shines through with all of his co-stars. Emily Blunt glimmers in this role. The rapport she has with Damon is believable from the first moment they meet. And from that beginning moment, you understand that these two people need to be together. Anthony Mackie as Harry, is also great. This might be the most low-key role I’ve seen from him. And definitely his most dapper. You get from the very beginning that he’s not quite like the other “adjusters” – and not just because he happens to be one of the few black ones. He carries in his eyes the reason he does the things in this movie, that he does.

The rest of the supporting cast are all worth a mention. Because even these smaller roles are filled by people that get what these characters were all about. Michael Kelly (Zack Snyder’s DAWN OF THE DEAD), who plays Norris’ best friend and confidant. John Slattery, who is always a joy to see on-screen and possibly got to just come straight to set from MAD MEN. Terence Stamp, who gets to play the bad-ass, nicknamed “The Hammer”. Even moments with Jon Stewart, Mayor Bloomberg and James Carville! James Carville!!! There’s other cameos too, I can tell from the certain kind of montage, where a movie tries to wedge in these fictional characters into the real world. Shaking hands with Jesse Jackson; Wolf Blitzer, etc. It’s fun.

That said, there’s some loopy stuff in the movie too. With “beings” that seem all-powerful – able to alter “fate”, and navigate through doorways to appear anywhere – there’s a number of times where they’re made to look like bumbling fools and forced into losing their powers at moments of convenience. A number of criticisms I’ve seen lobbed at the movie mention this. Especially the deal with the hats. But, I’ll tell you, I bought it all. And without going into spoilers, it’s all explained – as much as needed – in the movie. So, while it might seem a weakness of certain things that the adjusters do – or let slide – I feel that it’s their jobs, really to nudge things into place. Not forcefully end confrontations.

But finally, the thing that I love about this movie is the perspective it gives on people. How maybe we are confronted by choices everyday and depending on the path we take will alter our lives forever. Spilled coffee, lost car keys, or meeting a stranger by chance; and what we choose to do with that. The movie presents the idea that without a guiding force we’ve gone into darkness a number of times – possibly progressing downward each time. But maybe, if we’re pushed, we might just rise above that. Leading the way for man to become better than what we’ve been before.

Asking and proposing questions or ideas like that is why I love this movie. As so many of these types of stories do; this one revolves around true-love – in a sense – but it’s also so much bigger than that.

It’s not too late to go see this in the theater. So, please do.

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