Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau -- review

 NO SPOILER ALERT NECESSARY

I admit it, I’m a sucker for a good sci-fi/thriller/romcom. You just don’t see enough of them. Okay, you don’t see any. But THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU is all that maybe a little action/noir/fantasy to boot.

As long as you turn your suspension-of-belief dial way up into MEN IN BLACK II country, you’ll have fun with this movie. There are all the logic problems associated with having to create your own rules, then making up new ones as you go along just to keep the plot moving. But forget about all that. The story is about a group of otherworldly men who make sure that events in life occur as they’re supposed to and must keep Matt Damon and Emily Blunt from falling in love with each other. You can’t buy into that premise and then ask: “this Adjustment Bureau, do they give their employees hams every Christmas?”

Writer/director George Nolfi tries to do a lot of things – mix in metaphysics with romance, religion, politics, and of course, modern dance. Some elements work better than others, but for my money – if the romance works, then the movie works.

There is great chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. Right from their very first scene together. Thank God they didn’t cast Katherine Heigl! Whenever I watch a love story I try to imagine if it were me in that situation – would I go to the lengths this character is going through just to capture the heart of the love of my life? In this case no, but I’m a chicken shit. Were I a person of any substance then hell yeah, I totally would have. Emily Blunt was perfectly cast.  Matt Damon was good too, and of the ten movies he's been in this year alone, this is his best so far. 


John Slattery plays one of the Adjustment Bureau Adjusters and as usual, steals any scene he’s in. When you look up the word “insouciant” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of John, smirking underneath his fedora. This was a much more challenging role than MAD MEN however. John had to deliver his lines without holding a drink.

Hats play a big part in the movie. The way you can identify Adjustment Bureau personnel is that they all wear hats. Assuming they’ve been around for thousands of years I suspect they really stood out back in the Roman Empire days wearing togas and fedoras.

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU was fun and if any movie genre at all is your favorite then I recommend you go see it. Unless you’re not supposed to. In which case, don’t. I’d hate to think the next world war is caused because you wandered into the wrong theater and watched for twenty minutes before realizing this wasn’t GNOMEO & JULIET.

31 comments:

reno said...

I looked up “insouciant” in the dictionary and there was NO picture of John Slattery. I will never trust you again.

Richard J. Marcej said...

What would Hollywood have done in the last 30 odd years if they didn't have the work of Phillip K. Dick to adapt (or rip off)?

Mark Caldwell said...

I really enjoyed this too.

Someone ought to have told the marketing department that comparing it to either Bourne or Inception was doing the film a disservice. Maybe its just me but more and more I find the "From the Director/Producer/Writer/Caterer of X" and "This years X" on posters really misguided.

And the hats were cool.

Leslie said...

I've been looking forward to this one since I first saw a commercial - just haven't made it to the theater yet.

mp said...

How dare you impugn Katherine Heigl, sir!?! Katherine is the greatest actress working today. The producers would have been lucky if she would have deigned to even read for this Inception-wannabe. Ms. Heigl's natural charisma and impeccable acting chops...BWAHAHAHA...sorry, I couldn't keep it up.

The Time Machine said...

I loved this movie. I also couldn't help but notice that I was the only one in the theater when the previews started and when the closing credits began. It worked for me even though it didn't draw an audience into a 7PM show in my town on the Friday night that it opened nationwide. Enjoyed both of Phillip K. Dick's adapted films "Blade Runner" and "Minority Report" but this one wasn't as dark. That may have been it's charm as I was expecting it to be more cynical and gloomy. Nice review, Ken! :-)

Anonymous said...

I liked this movie too. It reminded me INCEPTION except this was entertaining, understandable and you liked the characters.

Raji Barbir said...

I must be the only who deeply disliked this movie.

I loved the chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt's characters but they lost me as soon as they started nodding to the sky and referring to The Chairman... And then showed example after example of their complete incompetence in managing to enforce any kind of plan.

Donald said...

I rate The Adjustment Bureau a 5/10 movie. I watched this movie just a few days ago but my friends didn't like it.

Mike said...

I enjoyed this, maybe because my expectations weren't that high. Some of the themes reminded me of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind".

w.v.: hottypo. Something very recently fat-fingered.

danrydell said...

A good movie. The specifics on the whole bureau hierarchy were a little fuzzy, sure, but on the whole a good movie.

I kinda wanted the whole thing to be on a larger scale, like you find out more specifics on what might happen if Matt Damon didn't follow his path, etc.

Nancy said...

I loved this movie!
It didn't get a great review but I thought it was great so from this point forward - to hell with reviews!

MBunge said...

The Adjustment Bureau blew its chance at being really good when they decided to ditch Stattery's character in order to bring in Terrance Stamp as a Joss Whedonesque "Big Bad". Instead of a conflict where the audience cares about both sides and that poses some legitimately interesting philosophical questions, they dumb it down into a one-sided footrace with a Care Bear Stare ending.

"You must follow The Plan!"

"But we're in love!"

"Oh. Okay then, do whatever you want."

Mike

Ron said...

Agree they had great chemistry but one huge logic bump puts me in Raji's dislike camp (and not any of the logic bumps associated with the Fate Controllers as Government Bureau guys, I'm talking about a basic insight into human behavior when it comes to love:

Years pass before they rely on a chance encounter to reunite because he didn't get her name and then lost her number. But she knew his name as a public official - why didn't she just call him?

I know, I know - ignore the logic bumps, but the assumption that only the man can seek out the woman struck me as plot-stopping backwardly. (This from a guy who enjoyed the magic hats and teleportive doors!)

RCP said...

Your review makes me want to go see this film.

"The story is about a group of otherworldly men who make sure that events in life occur as they’re supposed to and must keep Matt Damon and Emily Blunt from falling in love with each other."

No more illogical than keeping William Shatner and Joan Collins apart to prevent Hitler from taking over the world!

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I feel put-out by this movie, because I've had a similar idea for amovie involving supernatural beings having the power to control or fate and destiny and such... and now I won't be able to even consider doing it, because people will be looking at it as "That rip-off of The Adjustment Bureau". :(

MBunge said...

Joseph Scarbrough, you just need to be the first guy to pitch "The Adjustment Bureau" as a TV show. It could be like Quantum Leap mixed with The Phantom Stranger and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.

Mike

Adam said...

(Spoilers)

I thought it was lazy...very lazy...the inciting incident is because one of the guys falls asleep on a park bench. We're talking about people who are all powerful and he falls asleep so that he can't stop Matt Damon's character.

And then the ending...
They just kiss and the bureau is like "Okay that's cool with us, sorry to bother you". It was just very anticlimactic and kind of a letdown.

gottacook said...

Speaking of rip-offs (as a few commenters have done), anyone who might want to produce a film adaptation of Philip K. Dick's early novel Time Out of Joint will be accused of ripping off The Truman Show, even though the latter ripped off the former (nothing against Peter Weir, though). Likewise, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind concerns ideas familiar to Dick fans, and one could even make the case that The Matrix rips off Dick's 1969 novel Ubik. (Eternal Sunshine director Gondry is now said to be adapting Ubik.)

I haven't seen The Adjustment Bureau but know the story it's drawn from, "Adjustment Team" (published in 1954 when the author was 25). Like many Dick stories and novels, it concerns a married couple (whose dog is among those keeping their lives in line). An excellent description of how and why the changes from story to movie occurred can be found at www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2011/03/philip-k-diminished-a-review-of-the-adjustment-bureau.

Mac said...

Sounds good, I'm looking forward to it. An intelligent thriller, bit of sci-fi and Emily Blunt. Philip K. Dick had way more more than his fair share of killer ideas.

The Milner Coupe said...

Took my wife and youngest son (22) to this movie as an after dinner treat. None of us had preconceptions of the movie before seeing it. We all enjoyed it. The theater was half full at the 7:30 showing. Not bad.

I agree. The TV commercials seem to be for a completely different film.

cshel said...

I really enjoyed this movie. I was pleasantly surprised by the comic tone. There were a few issues, but like Ken said, you just go with it. PDK has been a good source of material.

The reviews I read were all fairly positive and accurate. They didn't so much say it was like Inception, but called it Inception Lite, which was a good call. I think the trailers should have alluded a little better to it's comic tone. I haven't even checked on the BO stats.

My big complaint - I was hoping they would reveal The Chairman to be - Frank Sinatra!

Leigh said...

I was a bit annoyed by the ending, but I really enjoyed this movie otherwise. The chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt was spectacular, and their dialogue was fresh without being too precious. I've decided Emily Blunt is my new favorite. I usually spend every movie wondering who'd have been better in the female lead. I enjoyed every moment of Emily's performance.

darms said...

While the missus & enjoyed this movie in the theater, as a long-time P.K. Dick fan I was appalled to see just how little of the original story "Adjustment Team" remained in the movie. Aside from the title and the concept of an "Adjustment Team" almost none of the story was there. Even the one "Adjustment" scene was all wrong. Instead we get a love story & a bit of suspense but still, if you're going to use someone's short story, use the story as written, dammit. As "gottacook" mentioned, the initial "Adjuster" was changed from a dog to a human. Yet another popcorn movie, one I won't pay to see again. Sad that the only P.K. Dick-based movie I've seen that was even close to the book was "Paycheck"...

Holt said...

RCP - (self-reported geek alert) Shatner had to keep Deforest Kelley from staying w/ Collins by allowing her death by car to keep the Fuhrer at bay.

Ken, really liked the movie too. Loved the hat/Roman days idea, but of course according the hat-men, that was back when The Chairman was allowing peeps to follow their own path...

BTW, I do dislike reading posts such as this one, where I've just corrected other people's input instead of truly adding anything... but hey, what'reyougonnado. cheers.

Mike said...

I thought the key to this movie was their instant chemistry. We wanted them to be together.

Johnny Walker said...

What's wrong with Katherine Heigl? Admittedly I've only seen her in Knocked Up, but I thought she was very good in that.

Lidia - Nutricionistas said...

The first thing I can say is that The Adjustemente Bureau is a rare film. It starts as a thriller about an aspiring U.S. senator, only to be a courageous commitment to science fiction, when in reality it is a love story. A fantastic modern reissue requited love, but impossible to divine.
When production starts to become a science fiction story is a bit messy and a bit mislead some characters, but once you become more or less with the leitmotif of the hat brigade, tension arises an intense thriller.
The final resolution is a little bluff, a little fairy tale, a little Disney

Jam Selion said...

This movie was one of my top list movies in 2011. I really enjoyed this because my idol, Matt Damon starred the film. The story of the movie was great too. After I watched the film, i dreamed about doors. hehe.

Arpiplan said...

An entertaining, unforseeable movie but something dense ultimately. It finishes almost without time, they do not give many answers.

Carina | animaladas.net said...

The movie leaves many questions without response. It is something rare. I did not like it