When it was released in theaters earlier this year, I really wanted to see The Adjustment Bureau. Of course, my schedule always seems to be insane these days and despite decent reviews (72% on RottenTomatoes.com), the film didn't do well at the box office and was gone before I had the chance to see it. Now it's available on DVD and OnDemand and I finally got to do so.
David Norris (Matt Damon) is an up-and-coming politician who suddenly finds himself taken down by a rather silly scandal involving the mooning of his friends at a college reunion. While rehearsing his concession speech in what he thinks is an empty men's room, he meets Elise (Emily Blunt), a free-spirited dancer hiding from security after crashing a wedding at the same hotel. They are instantly smitten and Elise inspires him to give an amazing extemporaneous speech which single-handedly re-galvanizes his political career.
But we soon learn that David is being shadowed by a group of men in dark suits and hats, with their own plans for his career. When Harry (Anthony Mackie) falls asleep and misses his appointment to make David spill coffee on himself, he creates a situation in which David arrives for work earlier than he was supposed to and discovers the existence of the titular Adjustment Bureau. He also meets Elise on the bus he was supposed to miss, and sets off a chain of events that have potential to change the world. The leader of the team assigned to David (John Slattery) explians to David that not only can he never reveal the existence of the Bureau but he can never see Elise again and that doing so would result in the need for him to be reset (i.e. lobotomized) . Of course, willful David spends three years searching for Elise and when he finds her, he sets in motion a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with the Bureau and their "Chairman."
Written and directed by The Bourne Ultimatum screenwriter George Nolfi and based on a short story by prolific Science Fiction author Phillip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau is chock full of suspense and some amazing visuals that can only be the result of Jay Rabinowitz' incredible editing skills. The acting is top-notch, with another fine performance from Damon (Hereafter) who shares some excellent screen chemistry with Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada). Slattery ("Mad Men") plays cold and calculating almost too well, while Mackie (The Hurt Locker) is excellent as a sympathetic Adjuster. Terence Stamp (The Adventures of Priscilla...) has a smaller role as the Bureau's heavy hitter, Thompson and is excellent as always.
Sadly, the movie only almost works. I say that because it's really a love story disguised as a Sci-Fi thriller. And because it's a love story, it gets saddled with the dopiest ending possible, making the whole thing irrelevant. Now I have to seek out Dick's original story ("Adjustment Team") to see just who's fault that is. I'm glad I didn't pay $11.00 to see The Adjustment Bureau in a theatre, but it was certainly entertaining enough to spend $2.99 to watch it in HD OnDemand. **1/2 (Two and a Half Stars Out of Four).