THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (Dir. George Nolfi, 2011)
As the youngest Congressman ever elected to the House of Representatives, Matt Damon can win over crowds just by flashing his blinding grin as this film’s opening montage of his senate campaign attests. But his bid for office is derailed when photos of an old college prank surface, and he ends up losing even in his home county.
Nevertheless Damon while preparing to deliver his concession still has reason to flash that grin as he has a “meet cute” with Emily Blunt funnily enough in a restroom at the Waldorf Astoria.
Blunt just happened to hiding from security in the men’s room stall because she crashed a wedding in case you are wondering.
They flirt then kiss, but don’t exchange names or phone numbers so when Damon is whisked away by his campaign manager (Michael Kelly), and Blunt is spotted by hotel security, fate seems to separate them.
Or that’s what “they” want Damon to think. Who are “they”, you ask? Why they’re the ones behind the scenes manipulating circumstances to influence human history.
They are men who wear classic suits and sport fedoras who will make you think of Mad Men especially since John Slattery is one of them.
When another member of the “intervention team” (as Slattery calls it), played by Anthony Mackie fails to divert Damon off his course to a meeting, things go askew.
Damon runs into Blunt on a bus and this time gets her digits, but then walks into an office of his frozen-in-time co-workers being scanned (or something) by, yep, the Adjustment Bureau.
In a huge shiny warehouse setting, Damon is told by Slattery and Mackie that he will be reset – that is, his mind will be erased if he tells anybody about them, and more importantly he can never be with Blunt.
Slattery burns the card with her phone number on it right in front of Damon to hammer home the point.
3 years pass and Damon is back on the campaign trail and lo and behold he sees Blunt on the street on the same bus route. The spark is still there as they chitchat while Slattery and crew surround them.
The film then becomes a series of elaborate chase scenes with brief exposition breaks. The men of the Bureau can use any door as a portal to a different place – but, only if they are wearing their fedoras. That and other nonsensical rules of the team tracking Damon are never satisfyingly explained, and the supposed plan they follow appears to be ultimately flexible.
Yet there is some fun to be had here. Damon and Blunt’s performances are top notch and at times it’s a treat to watch them run around through a well shot New York City.
Slattery and second half stealing Terrence Stamp bring gravitas to the convoluted material which is loosely based on a Phillip K. Dick short story from 1954.
The directorial debut of screenwriter George Nolfi (BOURNE ULTIMATUM, OCEAN'S 12, THE SENTINEL), THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU simply isn’t inventive enough to be a memorable mind bender a la INCEPTION. In other words you're not left with anything really to discuss or think about afterwards.
It strives to be a modern surreal take on a classic Hitchcockian thriller, but it’s more on the VANILLA SKY-side.
Stamp tells Damon that he never actually had free will – he only had the illusion of free will. Well, in this film, the illusion of intelligent entertainment is all we get.