Movie Review – “The Adjustment Bureau”

This afternoon I got a chance to see The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, John Slattery, and Anthony Mackie.

The synopsis:

Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us? Matt Damon stars in the thriller The Adjustment Bureau as a man who glimpses the future Fate has planned for him and realizes he wants something else. To get it, he must pursue the only woman he’s ever loved across, under and through the streets of modern-day New York. On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, ambitious politician David Norris (Damon) meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt)-a woman like none he’s ever known. But just as he realizes he’s falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself-the men of The Adjustment Bureau-who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. In the face of overwhelming odds, he must either let her go and accept a predetermined path – Written by¬†Universal Pictures

When I first say the trailer for this film, I added it to my “must see” list. It looked like a great film – part love story, part sci-fi/thriller. I went into this film expecting a lot, given the caliber of the actors in this film.

So the way this movie is billed, it appears to be part-love story, part-sci-fi thriller. I’d add another component to it, it’s also part-religious/philosophical debate. The main crux of this film is the idea of fate versus free will. How much of our lives are made up of the decisions we make everyday, and how much is made up of the decisions that were already made for us before we were even born? Can the decisions that we make in our lives affect the destiny that was pre-written for us? Are we forced to forever stay within the boundaries of the life path that we are predestined to embark upon? All these questions and more are highlighted in the film. There’s also a pseudo-religious angle, but I appreciate that it was more of a tertiary plot line than a focus of the film. Heavy emphasis on religious ideology would have hurt this film.

I generally like Matt Damon, and I found his performance to be well-played. He assumes the role of a young politician who has overcome adversity in his life very well, and it seemed to be a good fit for him. Not a stretch by any means. Damon plays the “likable” guy very well so this was a comfort zone performance for him. Now, Emily Blunt is an actress that I have loved since her debut in The Devil Wears Prada, but I was a bit disappointed in her performance in this film. I don’t know, some of that spark was kind of missing. And Matt Damon & Emily Blunt are supposed to be so made for each other (which is why chance keeps bringing them together), yet I didn’t really feel any of that magnetic energy on the screen. Granted, they interacted well, but I don’t know if I believed that these two people were made for each other.

John Slattery and Anthony Mackie are the main “adjusters” that we see in the film. It’s Anthony Mackie’s responsibility to keep Matt Damon’s character on his path, and John Slattery becomes the cleanup man when that doesn’t happen. Through the film we see a sort of good cop/bad cop dynamic develop, with Anthony Mackie being the good cop and John Slattery being the bad cop. Overall I enjoyed both of their characters, though there was not much character development put into either of their characters.

I both liked and hated this plot. It certainly had a lot of potential. The idea that there’s an invisible force shaping the direction our lives take leaves the screenplay open to numerous possibilities, yet it seems like they took the easiest road possible. Granted, this film is based on a short story, which I haven’t read, so I have no idea if the less-than surprising plot was a product of the short story, or unimaginative screenwriters. Basically, this film goes the way you expect it to, I won’t elaborate as to not give any spoilers. But there were no surprises, I think the only moment that made me gasp was an unexpected car crash. The rest? Kinda blah. I think I enjoyed thinking more about the philosophical questions that this film highlights than I enjoyed the actual plot & dialogue.

Overall, The Adjustment Bureau is an ok film. There was a lot of potential though and the film didn’t deliver on that end. But it’s entertaining & worth at least adding to your Netflix queue when it comes out on DVD.

Did you see The Adjustment Bureau? What did you think of this film?

  • @ms_jones74

    I saw it a few weeks ago and liked it. I gave it a solid B. Not amazing, but not awful. I disagreed on Matt and Emily– I really liked their chemistry. I was rooting for them. I felt like some of the dialogue was hackneyed and belonged more in a Laurel and Hardy film (i.e. “I hate downtown”) but the film held my attention all the way through.

    My friend and I came up with an alternate ending that we would have liked to have seen, but the ending, to us, wasn’t altogether disappointing.

    Matt Damon is going to always be my boy, and I really enjoy Emily Blunt a lot as well. I felt like Anthony Mackie was the tiniest bit stiff at first and overacting-ish, but I warmed up to him. And I have loved Ed Harris since a Beautiful Mind.