Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau

adjustment_bureauIt might look like another “Run, Matt, Run!” conspiracy thriller, but “The Adjustment Bureau” is a surprisingly high-concept affair, where the baddies aren’t incorrigible evildoers but rather the agents of fate itself. Think of it as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” with chase sequences; the heart wants what it wants, and it’ll be damned if anyone is going to get in its way, no matter the cost. All love stories should be so thrilling.

Matt Damon is David Norris, a rising star in political circles whose run for the Senate is dashed by the poorly-timed leaking of some embarrassing photos of Norris from years back. As he’s prepping his consolation speech in the restroom, he runs into Elise (Emily Blunt), who’s hiding from authorities after she pulled a prank. The two hit it off immediately but do not exchange personal information. Three months later, David and Elise end up on the same bus and pick up right where they left off, at least until David gets to work and sees a group of men in suits reprogramming his coworkers. The men capture David, and a man named Richardson (John Slattery) informs him that they are “adjusters,” men who make sure that David remains on the path that has been chosen for him, one which keeps him away from Elise. There are dire consequences should he tell her why he is forbidden from seeing her (they’ll erase his brain, yikes), but David refuses to give her up. Fortunately for him, he has a sympathetic adjuster (Anthony Mackie) in his corner, who uncovers a shocking secret about David’s true path.

It’s tough to see anyone else selling this story like Damon does. This is as pitch-perfect a role as he’s ever had, and his chemistry with Blunt is white-hot. (Their meet cute in the bathroom is one for the ages.) Writer/director George Nolfi stages some dazzling transition shots as the adjusters use doorways as short cuts through the city, but his true masterstroke is the dialogue. It’s not flashy, but it is so right, so pure. When David tells Elise that loads of women have told him what a bad dancer he is, Emily simply replies, “That’s gross.” Does anything more really need to be said?

Of course, with all high-concept movies comes a fair amount of exposition, and there are a couple scenes where Damon and Mackie’s characters are clearly talking for our benefit more than their own. Also, the adjusters’ weaknesses are curious to say the least, but neither of these proves to be a major distraction, certainly not compared to what the movie offers in terms of a genuine romance and a boatload of philosophical questions, such as: if we choose happiness over success, is God disappointed?

People have looked to indie movies of late when it comes to matters of the heart, but “The Adjustment Bureau” has the most emotionally satisfying love story that any movie, major or indie, has sported in years. An action thriller with a soul; that is one trend we’d like to see catch on.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This originally ran March 3, 2011 on

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