The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
Directed by: George Nolfi
Running time: 106 minutes approx.
First of all, let me apologise for the lateness of this review. I spent the weekend down on the coast of Victoria, Australia and was unfortunately out of range of any internet services so I could not post. But since I’m sure you were all binging on so much very-loosely-related-to-the-death-of-a-Christian-prophet chocolate to notice my tardiness, so let’s just get on with things!
Now Showing this week is The Adjustment Bureau which I saw while I was down on the coast. It was not until I read the credits that I discovered it was a film based off a work by science-fiction writer Phillip K. Dick. You may have heard of Phillip K. Dick from films such as Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly and Blade Runner. The Adjustment Bureau revolves around a man running for a seat in the U.S. Senate named David Norris (played by Matt Damon) who, by complete chance, meets a woman named Elise whom he falls head-over-heels in love with. An altercation with security officers separates them and he does not meet her again until three years later, again by chance, on a bus. They catch up, he obtains her phone number, and then leaves the bus. Only then to be ambushed in his office building by a group of men in trench coats and fedora hats, who take him to a warehouse location. These men then tell him that he has somehow deviated from something called “The Plan”, and they are the people who have the power to manipulate events so that everyone stays on “The Plan”. Norris’ deviation is, you guessed it, that he met Elise a second time when he wasn’t supposed to and that he must never see her again or else these men will lobotomize him.
I went into this film thinking it was going to be a bad re-hash on the masterpiece film that was Dark City, which has a similar concept of a group of strange men manipulating the world and the people in it. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was nothing like Dark City and was actually quite original in it’s own right. The Adjustment Bureau is, in a sense, a great new take on the lovers-kept-apart-by-destiny story. In fact, they are literally being kept apart by destiny! The story is very interesting, in the way that it is constantly keeping you guessing about why these two can’t be together in “The Plan”, how the Adjustment Bureau will manipulate reality to foil Norris’ plans and how will Norris overcome their immense power. On top of that, the dialogue between Norris and Elise is fantastic. Aside from the initial jump to “we love each other! *kissy kissy muhhhhh*” towards the beginning, their interactions are witty, meaningful and realistically portrayed. Well done scriptwriter/director George Nolfi.
There were, however, some things I took issue with. For example the first point of conflict in the film, the whole “Norris met Elise again when he wasn’t supposed to” moment, was caused because a member of the Adjustment Bureau missed the opportunity to make Norris spill coffee on his shirt and making him go back home and change and as a result he would miss the bus. That’s all well and good, but the reason this Adjustment Bureau man missed that opportunity was because he was asleep on the job! I mean come on, these guys are clearly some sort of immortal beings that are masquerading as humans (it isn’t explained what they are, but they’re clearly god-like creatures of sorts) who are tasked with the job of watching over mankind and controlling the unfolding of history. Do you really think beings that were created for that purpose would fall asleep at the wheel?!
On the romance side of things I found a few issues; or at least some problems with the romance’s integration into the sci-fi storyline. Like I mentioned before, the initial meeting between Norris and Elise was an excellently written, humorous conversation in which all of a sudden they start pashing like a couple of teenagers! Completely randomly; I remember being taken aback and looking at my girlfriend sitting next to me and she looked equally surprised by the sudden turn of events. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I should ever be surprised by something like that unless it’s meant to be comedic. It should have been romantic but instead it was just like Norris just decided to mack her before she could escape him, like she was his best mate’s sister or something. It just seemed silly.
Speaking of silly, the films gets quite silly towards the end. The cliche of “love conquers all” starts coming into play, which I guess is fine but there was this one moment where Norris and Elise are cornered by Bureau guys. They’re trapped, they know they’re about to be lobotomized and they just go “I love you” and mack on again, all in a matter of seconds. It was so fast it was laughable! There was no time to soak in the despair that they’d been caught, that the end had come and this was the last time they may be able to express their love for each other. No, it was just trapped, “love”, make out. That quick. Again, hilarious not romantic.
But minor gripes aside, The Adjustment Bureau was quite enjoyable. Not a film to rave about to everybody, but it was a fairly solid sci-fi, romance thriller with a good script and cast. Not the best of films adapted from Phillip K. Dick’s work, but it certainly isn’t the worst (the worst being Blade Runner but that’s a story for another review!). I shall speak to you all next week when I review something I’ve been looking forward to: Thor! Dunno what I’m gonna think of it, I love it when I’m like that going into a film! See you next time!