Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp
George Nolfi, Philip K. Dick (Novel)
Deleted and Extended Scenes (7 min); Leaping Through New York (7:51 est.) An inside look at how the production team filmed Norris’ race to the courthouse, featuring interviews with Matt Damon, Director George Nolfi, special effects coordinator Mark Russell, and producers Michael Hackett and Chris Moore; Destined To Be (5 min est.) The role of David Norris provided Matt Damon with his first opportunity to play a true romantic lead in a film. Co-star Emily Blunt, Director George Nolfi, and Matt Damon himself reflect upon this new role for the star; Becoming Elise (7 min est.) A look at Emily Blunt’s dance training for the role of Elise. Emily, Matt Damon, George Nolfi, and Emily’s dance choreographer discuss her transformation from a slim actress into a well muscled athlete; Feature Commentary with Writer/Director George Nolfi
The good news is that The Adjustment Bureau is better than it looks.
Based upon a novel by Philip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau stars Matt Damon as a man who gets a glimpse at what fate has in store for him and decides that he wants something different. On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, Damon's David Norris is faced with defying fate and chasing beautiful ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) under, across and all around New York if they are to have any chance of being together.
Now then, back to that godawful movie poster. It sucks, doesn't it? It made me NOT want to see the film. The movie poster made put off seeing The Adjustment Bureau as long as humanly possible and I don't even pay to see most films.
Philip K. Dick, the writer of the original source material for films such as The Blade Runner, Minority Report and Total Recall, is far more known as a sci-fi than a romantic writer (Duh!). However, the strength of The Adjustment Bureau lies in the romance and the chemistry between David and Elise. The buttoned-down David and the wild child Elise are not only cute together, but Damon and Blunt have a strong chemistry together that allows this film to work far better than one might expect. The two meet at a Waldorf-Astoria dinner in what is obviously a pre-destined meeting arranged by Harry (Anthony Mackie) and Richardson (John Slattery), two fedora-laden mysterious guys whom we learn are essentially angels whose specific assignments are to ensure that fate takes its course by "adjusting" events, relationships and experiences to ensure it all lines up as it's supposed to line up. The problem is that once David and Elise have their initial meeting, that's it. No more. Nadda.
Well, unless, David can change the course of fate.
In fairness to Dick, The Adjustment Bureau isn't exactly faithful to its source material as much as it takes that central concept and creates another world out of it. This film shouldn't necessarily have you running off to devour Philip K. Dick's writings, and to do so will likely only end in disappointment this time around.
All of this could be remarkably campy and silly if not for the convincing romance of Damon and Blunt, along with the weighty and surprisingly impactful performance of Terence Stamp as the superior of Harry and Richardson who adds tremendous gravitas to the entire affair.
Nolfi, who penned The Bourne Ultimatum, makes his directing debut here and while it's far from flawless it's certainly admirable enough given the complexity of the material to ensure he will get a second shot at the big screen. While the film's final third very nearly derails the entire thing, Nolfi manages to keep it afloat just enough that audiences will likely leave the theatre thinking this was a couple of hours well spent.
Matt Damon continues to widen his range, having exhibited gifts recently for everything from action to comedy to westerns and thrillers. While he doesn't excel here, he most assuredly convinces and he's strong enough in the romantic department to sell the vast majority of the film. There is an argument that the romance is noticeably light on actual emotion, however, this may very well depend upon how you take the somewhat more stoic romanticism of Damon. The nearly always dependable Emily Blunt shines as well, an intriguing blend of romantic spark and sci-fi sizzle. Terence Stamp steals virtually all of his scenes, seemingly embracing his best role in years.
The Adjustment Bureau would have been a far more successful film as a romantic drama with light elements of action/sci-fi, but too often it seems as if Nolfi feels compelled to tip his hat to Philip K. Dick or Bourne or somebody. The result is a film that bounces once too often between flimsy and weighty, never quite deciding what kind of film it really wants to be. The Adjustment Bureau is far better than nearly anyone will expect given its misguided trailer and simply awful movie poster, but just about the time the audience adjusts to a rock solid romantic drama Nolfi nudges us back towards where our cinematic fates must want us to be.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic