The Adjustment Bureau (2011) – Review

Matt Damon must fight against fate in this Philip K. Dick adaptation...

Senate candidate David Norris (Matt Damon) must choose between pursuing his presidential dreams and the love he finds in Elise (Emily Blunt) after the shifty purveyors of fate intervene in this sci-fi romp.

Based on Philip K. Dick’s 1954 short story ‘The Adjustment Team’, The Adjustment Bureau plays with the ideas of predeterminism, free will and fate. After a chance meeting with Elise in a men’s lavatory David finds himself harassed by mysterious men in trilbies. Determined to ensure he leaves her alone, the men intervene every time David tries to rekindle his love with Elise.

Biblical undertones echo throughout with the Bureau being headed by a loosely disguised god-figure in the form of the hidden ‘chairman’ whilst the suited men who do the chairman’s legwork are, to all intents and purposes, angels. Despite such religious connections the film isn’t preachy, instead focusing on the possibility that our free will is not our own.

Bringing interesting concepts to light, the film follows Inception‘s suit and provides audiences with brain food to muse over. Although the pace, at times, is a little sketchy, The Adjustment Bureau nevertheless poses existential questions whilst actively pondering whether our decisions are, in fact, our own.

Mentions of Inception, The Matrix and the Bourne films have all been batted around in recent reviews of George Nolfi’s film but The Adjustment Bureau is much more than a sci-fi flick. Combining the surreal undertones of the sci-fi world with what is essentially a romantic story, the film neatly layers David’s quest to uncover the truth behind the Bureau. Damon and Blunt’s chemistry is both believable and engaging and provides the film with structure. Their dialogue appears spontaneous and their fight to stay together poses the question; what would you do for love?

The seamless transitions provided in the chase scenes stop them from being confusing which, considering each door leads to a new and unrelated location, is no mean feat. Anthony Mackie is likeable as Harry, a Bureau official intent on helping David’s cause whilst Terence Stamp is suitably evil in his role of Thompson.

Pushing mainstream cinema again toward the thought-provoking rather than the inane sequel fodder it is endlessly subjected to, The Adjustment Bureau is an enjoyable attempt to question what it is to be human. After watching not only will you ponder what decisions may have led your life in a different direction, you might also find yourself looking at anyone wearing a hat in a new light….

Best bit: The door chase scene… although seeing a real senate candidate giving Norris’s ballsy speech would be refreshing.
Best performance: Emily Blunt.

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