The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

The Adjustment Bureau (2011) Director: George Nolfi. Stars: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Michael Kelly

Written and directed by Oceans Twelve scribe George Nolfi, The Adjustment Bureau is an excellent Sci-fi Romance based on Philip K. Dick’s short story Adjustment Team. David Norris (Damon) is a high flying congressman on his way to becoming the youngest US Senator when his campaign crumbles beneath him. Following his defeat he has a chance encounter with a beautiful and enigmatic ballerina Elise (Blunt) who inspires him to give the speech of his life. When the two are brought together again by chance Norris’ attempts to get closer to Elise are continually thwarted by a mysterious group of men in hats who seem to have another plan for David.

Science fiction is at it’s best when dealing with themes and ‘big ideas’. Here the focus is clearly on issues of fate and religion but Nolfi has been able to balance this beautifully with an engaging central romance. Rather than bog everything down in complex exposition and scientific philosophy he has taken Dick’s source material and shifted the focus to romance, explaining the sci-fi elements matter of factly like they are an unequivocal truth and there is no point trying to figure them out. This then allows the film to zip along at an incredible pace and it’s stars to shine. This is not to say that these ideas get lost. The philosophical discussion of free-will, overtly discussed by Norris and adjuster Richardson (John Slattery), is integral to the plot: every decision leads to an action, every action a consequence – but what if your actions are adjusted?

Nolfi’s script is terrific. He really does keep the science to a bare minimum and allows the audience to make up their owns minds with regards to the ‘meaning’ of the story. When Norris explicitly challenges adjuster Harry about what is happening to him he gets part truths and suggestions in response. It is hinted that the adjusters are angels, the chairman God, but this is never elaborated upon and it is to the benefit of the overall piece. There is just the right amount of wit too, largely from the the sardonic Richardson, keeping the tone light. The banter between Norris and long time friend Charlie (Kelly), and his early engagements with Elise, crackle with humour and a light touch one would have thought impossible from writer of the abominable Timeline

Perhaps more surprising is Nolfi’s obvious talent for direction (in fairness to his scriptwriting he has improved as the years have progressed!) The Adjustment Bureau is Nolfi’s first foray into directing and it is remarkably assured. His direction is unobtrusive despite the breakneck pace and he has made a clear effort to keep the special effects to a minimum. Most impressively, though, he understands who the stars of his movie are.

Those stars are, of course, his two leads. Matt Damon has over the years moulded himself into one of Hollywood’s most reliable leading men. Here he manages to be utterly convincing as the politician who’s whole reality crumbles around him while, perhaps more importantly, keeping the audience on side when things start to get a little weird. Blunt is equally effective. Her Elise is irresistibly funny and charming from the outset. Most importantly, however, the two share amazing screen chemistry. The major reason the film works so well as a romance is just how good the two actors are together. Their dialogue crackles back and forward so effortlessly that you want nothing more than for everything to work out for the pair. The supporting cast are also terrific with John Slattery a standout as Richardson, the adjuster both exasperated and grudging in his respect for Norris.

The film is not without flaws, however. There are a number of plot holes that get overlooked in the race to the finish (Exactly what powers do the adjusters have? Why didn’t she call him?) The final twenty minutes itself are also slightly problematic. The film (quite literally) ends up sprinting towards a conclusion and everything ends a little too neatly given the approach of the rest of the film.

Ultimately an extremely enjoyable sci-fi romance, The Adjustment Bureau may just be most notable for the incredible chemistry between it’s two leads.

4 out of 5

Posted on April 3, 2012, in Film Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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