The Adjustment Bureau is a surprisingly good, romantic movie considering that angels are determining the fate of star-crossed lovers and the plot is driven by such lines as “if you stay together, you will not only ruin your dreams, you will also ruin hers.”
The Adjustment Bureau. Directed by George Nolfi. The cast includes Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, John Slatterly, and Anthony Mackie.
By Sarah Sanders
In The Adjustment Bureau, based on the short story “The Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick, aspiring politician David Norris (Matt Damon) and contemporary ballerina Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) attempt to nurture their love despite the dictates of fate.
David, played by a surprisingly beefy Damon, is a charismatic, up-and-coming congressman looking to establish himself in the Senate. His popularity wins him the covers of magazines, interviews on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and whispers of a possible Presidential run. But for all his sudden fame, David loses his Senate election—as predetermined by the titular Adjustment Bureau. The top-secret Bureau, staffed by solemn, timeless agents whose sole function is to deliver the will of the Chairman, has been operating for centuries and determines the path that the future will take (read: angels).
The Bureau’s case agents, Harry (Anthony Mackie) and Richardson (John Slatterly), have been secretly manipulating all of the events in David’s life; a chance meeting with Elise sends the team scrambling to put David back on the right course. Richardson threatens to erase David’s entire personality if he ever reveals their existence and forbids him from ever seeing Elise again, although the two have already forged an unbreakable bond.
Richardson’s desperate that David not ruin his life by pursuing Elise but also fears, in the process, he will reveal the Bureau to the world. Fat chance. It’s unbelievable that the Bureau hasn’t already made its presence known to the masses. These so-called “agents” are the most conspicuous people in the world, looking like they just stepped off the set of television’s Mad Men. Harry, Richardson, and co-workers Donaldson and Thompson are all decked out in full, three-piece suits and fedoras and carry around notebooks with high-tech tracking displays. Not to mention they walk everywhere in tandem: who wouldn’t be suspicious of four guys in matching, gray trench coats marching down the street. In addition, they’re constantly making people spill their coffee, causing car crashes, and stopping time. You know, the small things. If they were really so nervous about remaining undercover, they would have tried just a touch harder to blend in.
Despite the absurdity, The Adjustment Bureau is a surprisingly good, romantic movie considering that angels are determining the fate of star-crossed lovers and the plot is driven by such lines as “if you stay together, you will not only ruin your dreams, you will also ruin hers.” But the movie is saved from being overly corny by the direction of first-timer George Nolfi, known for penning action films like Ocean’s Twelve and The Bourne Ultimatum, who succeeds in achieving a nice balance between the romance and the lighter sci-fi elements.
The Bureau agents use different kinds of supernatural methods to control David’s life, like tracking him down using secret doors that cut across different parts of the city, but the plot isn’t reliant on these sci-fi gimmicks. Instead, the movie focuses on the characters, who are lively and realistically humorous. The romance does, in some places, eclipse the science fiction but not in a cloying way. In fact, Damon and Blunt dazzle on screen together, proffering an easy and natural chemistry suited to their characters.
Damon, taking a break from his usual gruff, action-star roles, charms as the busy politician bent on finding the one woman he loves, whom fate has taken from him. David is affable and stalwart, never giving up on Elise though years pass without their seeing each other. And Blunt, who did her own dancing for her role as Elise, makes for an attractive heroine who combines confidence and allure. Watching these characters fall in love is like watching the perfect couple find their perfect happiness. The only thing standing in the way of true romance is a conspicuous posse of pesky angels.