Review: THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 6 March 2011



The poster of THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU has widely advertised by the particular blurb from Total Film magazine, hailing this movie as "BOURNE MEETS INCEPTION". Additionally, the trailer and the marketing promotion have been selling this movie as a chase thriller with a dash of romance and heady sci-fi undertones. Considering this movie is adapted from Philip K. Dick's short story Adjustment Team, it's natural that viewers are expecting this to be a star-studded chase thriller borders on visually extravagant approach. Unfortunately whatever that lead you believe of such is nothing more than a huge misleading. Writer-producer-director George Nolfi's directorial debut here is more of a romance than an otherwise spectacular thriller, while the supposedly fascinating sci-fi concept is a mixed bag.

The story centers on David Norris (Matt Damon), a highly ambitious congressman who is on the verge of becoming the youngest candidate ever to be elected as the senator of New York. In fact, he is so close of winning the election until the sudden breaking news of the photos of his embarrassing college reunion prank made public during the crucial voting day. That photos alone has caused his reputation dearly and ultimately hurts his biggest chance of a would-be victory come election result. Feeling frustrated, David goes to the bathroom of the Waldorf Astoria to calm himself while practicing his concession speech. But his focus is quickly distracted when he is surprised to see a beautiful woman in a sexy black gown walks out from one of the bathroom stalls. The woman introduces herself as Elise (Emily Blunt), who confesses she was hiding at the men's bathroom because she has been crashing at someone's wedding. David, in the meantime, falls in love with her at first sight and within moments of flirtatious exchange, they shared a kiss together before they parted ways. At that particular moment, David has never feel so alive and knowing her has quickly made him so motivated of delivering a remarkably honest and heartfelt speech in front of the media and the supporters even though he's losing for the election. A few days later, David is surprised to meet her again for the second time and this time it's on the bus. They share another flirtatious moment and David finally have his chance to get her number. So far so good, until he realize he is actually being watched by a mysterious group of sharply-dressed men in fedora hat, lead by an imposing chief named Richardson (John Slattery) to ensure that their chance encounter of being together is never meant to be on the first place. This is especially made clear when David ends up being captured and tied up to the chair. Richardson reveals to him that they are from "The Adjustment Bureau", a mysterious organization responsible for ensuring the fate of mankind as accordingly to the master plan already drawn in the book by "The Chairman". He also warns him not to tell anyone about their existence as well as continue to see Elise ever again or risk his mind being completely erased. Three years later, David has actually never giving up of hoping to see her one day and somehow he gets his chance. En route to work on the same bus, he spots her from the window as she walks down the street. He quickly takes his opportunity to rekindle their romance again. When Richardson and his men find out about these two forbidden lovers are seeing each other again, they have no choice but to determine that they will be kept apart at all cost.

On the surface, George Nolfi's adapted screenplay here is genuinely intriguing with an interesting mix of neo-noir and fascinating mind-bender that almost recalls the 1998's cult favorite DARK CITY, minus the bold stylized look. But that is only evident in the first half, with some surrealistic fun in the form of entertaining chase-thriller level (the part where the men in fedora hats capable of teleporting to other places in the nick of time by just opening the door is simply classy, although the concept is obviously copycat from 2003's THE MATRIX RELOADED) and of course, some worthy romantic angle between David and Elise. Their particular second-chance encounter at the bus is sparked with such lively chemistry it's certainly exciting to see them together.

Unfortunately, here lies the biggest problem. By the time the second half kicks in, the story gets progressively sillier, not to mention all those clunky and expository dialogues that ultimately drags the movie to a near standstill. Perhaps the most glaring mistake here is the way how the romance angle is taken so seriously it almost robs out all the pursuing fun the movie have promised earlier. As an accomplished screenwriter who used to pen two Damon's movie (OCEAN'S TWELVE and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM), George Nolfi gets way too ambitious for his own good. He just can't resist of spelling out every situations that come before. All those attempt to explain the meaning behind the mysterious going-on such as ideas about chance, fate, destiny and particularly the existence of "The Adjustment Bureau" are so heavy-handed that they don't really give satisfactory answers in the end.

The only saving grace here is the believable chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. Their undying love is certainly poignant, except the way their romance blend into this genre-defying picture is occasionally dumbed-down. The other one, is the seamless special effects supervised by Mark Russell which is particularly evident during the first half's chase sequence inside the office building and the intense finale where David and Elise try to outrun the men in fedora hats all over New York City. It's just too bad that the action is kept to a bare minimum.

Overall, this is no doubt that THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU needs some serious adjustment here. And that BOURNE MEETS INCEPTION so-called praise? Not even close enough.

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