REVIEW: The Adjustment Bureau [2011]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 106 minutes | Release Date: March 4th, 2011 (USA)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director(s): George Nolfi
Writer(s): George Nolfi / Philip K. Dick (short story “Adjustment Team”)

“It doesn’t matter how you feel, what matters is in black and white”

Do we have the capacity for free will? When you look back into the history of mankind, what really stand out are our blunders and tragedies. Nuclear power is created and we drop the bomb; diseases are discovered and cured and we manufacture biological weapons. The laundry list of things done for science, for good, for survival that end up twisting into one more way to inch closer to absolute annihilation is sickening to fathom. Maybe humanity needs fate, needs a higher power to set us straight. How can you not believe that we were steered towards civility from hunting and gathering or nudged into a time of enlightenment such as the Renaissance when we followed both with the Dark Ages and two World Wars respectively? Isn’t it easier to believe that we can be perfect when controlled and detached from impulse, willfully creating genocide when left to our own devices? Greed rules the world, but what if love somehow found a way in? What if love could save us? Leave it to Philip K. Dick’s imagination and George Nolfi’s keen adaptation to make us wonder at the possibility in The Adjustment Bureau.

This isn’t science fiction—this is fate. Don’t think the film will preach a homily, though. If anything, this movie stands on the opposite side of the equation to believe in mankind’s ability to govern its own lives. You have to buy into the construct that we have no control to eventually have the hope we can choose if wanted enough. There is a team of adjusters out there to help us course correct and stay on our path—we don’t know they exist, we don’t feel their presence, and we are none the wiser as a result. It’s only when one of these ethereal creatures in action, not appearance, shows a very human trait—emotional exhaustion—that the men behind the curtain are revealed. And they aren’t shown to any Joe Shmoe on the street who can be easily dissuaded and manipulated into forgetting what he saw; it’s a workingman’s Congressman running for Senate. It’s a man with conviction, tenacity, and intelligence—all those attributes we love in our government officials. So, instead of being told the lie, the adjusters tell him the truth. His price for not having his mind erased merely his word to tell no one what he saw and to forget about the woman he loves.

David Norris (Matt Damon) is not someone who can accept anything short of free will, however. Despite what he sees, despite what he knows as fact, he can only exist as long as he has a say in what happens. His first meeting with Elise (Emily Blunt) may have been planned, the adjusters may have allowed it to happen for inspiration and a needed jolt to his psyche pertaining to waning political aspirations, but that was all. It was chance that brought them together a second time and chance that did it a third. And here is where The Adjustment Bureau truly pulled me into its world. What we normally attribute to fate—love’s power to bring two people who belong together, together—is actually chance in the detailed universe onscreen. These dapper men in hats use fate to keep David and Elise apart while chance continues to bring them into each other’s arms. God in this allegorical thriller has crossed his own wires, creating a plan so perfect that it’s re-writing has caused unforeseen actions. The film becomes more than love conquering all; it evolves into man versus God. We exist and therefore tread our own path.

The world Nolfi, via Dick, has created is one just like ours. In fact, a majority of the population probably believes we live in the exact universe depicted. If you’re religious, no matter the denomination or faith, you believe in some form of divine intervention, God’s will, etc. The test then is whether you walk in complete obedience to it or have the strength to stand in opposition. Damon’s Norris has worked his entire life amidst endless personal tragedy to get to the present. Public service called him and he answered with body and soul until a rambunctious, beautiful, and witty Brit walked into his life, altering it forever. We all make life and death decisions every second, weighing the options, our self-preservation, and the feelings of those around us. Sometimes those decisions end in pain no matter the choice, sometimes in order to truly love, we must walk away without explanation. Other times we have to dig deep, turn away from the inevitable consequences and do what’s right in our hearts. We all reach a point where it’s all or nothing and we all have to commit.

We are Matt Damon—the everyman working towards a dream and finding deviations to enhance and up-end. His journey is a physical manifestation of what we go through every day. You can think of the adjusters as angels, but I find our conscience much more apt. They are the inner wrestling of priorities and actions, be it Anthony Mackie’s soulful, guilt-ridden guardian; John Slattery’s by-the-book facilitator of order; or Terence Stamp’s hammer of brute force and hard truths. Our doors, acting as portal jumps, are their entrances and exits; they anticipate our moves by knowing our motives and they can alter physics on a whim to ripple our path. Spilled coffee could be what defines you; that stain a constant reminder of the point in your life where you chose love over duty or vice versa. Each performance, whether human, robotic, or a combination of both—Mackie once again shines brightest amongst his peers—helps us enter this world and see it as our own. The subject matter itself causes a few unintentional laughs and the end may risk crossing the ‘preachy’ line, but you cannot deny the spark between Damon and Blunt. It’s through their love that we discover our own ambitions and realize what truly matters and what we’ll do tomorrow as a result.

[1] MATT DAMON stars in the romantic thriller “The Adjustment Bureau” as a man who glimpses the future planned for him and realizes he wants something else. To get it, he must pursue the only woman he’s ever loved (EMILY BLUNT) and defy the agents of Fate–a mysterious group of men exerting control over their lives. Copyright: © 2011 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
[2] The Bureau’s head agent, Thompson (TERENCE STAMP), leads his men in the romantic thriller “The Adjustment Bureau”. In the film, Matt Damon plays a man who glimpses the future planned for him and realizes he wants something else. To get it, he must pursue the only woman he’s ever loved and defy the agents of Fate–a mysterious group of men exerting control over their lives. Photo Credit: Andrew Schwartz Copyright: © 2011 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
[3] Anthony Mackie stars as Harry and Matt Damon stars as David Norris in Universal Pictures’ The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.