Sunday, 6 March 2011

REVIEW: The Adjustment Bureau

Dir.: George Nolfi
With: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt

It is amusing how after the huge success of Inception last year, there is suddenly an influx of films in 2011 all based around the concept of changing reality. Limitless, Source Code, Unknown and The Adjustment Bureau all seem united by this red thread that runs through their slinky, grey-hued trailers. I mean you can’t really blame the filmmakers for trying to come up with some new sci-fi spectacles, anything is better than the constant recycling of the old super-hero flicks.

The Adjustment Bureau is actually based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, a long-standing contributor to the world of cinematic science fiction. In the original version, a salaryman suddenly discovers that the world is controlled by the Adjustment Bureau who make sure that things all go according to the Plan. In George Nolfi’s film, the salaryman is replaced by a confident, young Democratic front-runner played by Matt Damon. Throughout the film he discovers more about himself, the nature of fate and what he is prepared to sacrifice in order to change it. Emily Blunt plays his romantic interest, a ballet dancer who brings out the best in him.

The film is far from perfect, but it is also far from being a total failure. It looks great, the characters are stylish and attractive, and there is a certain Mad Men feel to the Adjustment Bureau employees (not surprising considering that John Slattery aka Roger Sterling plays one of them). I think that the editing could have been done better, the pacing of the film really failed to engage the audience at certain moments. At the same time I thought that it was quite entertaining, the acting was good too. Matt Damon is particularly watchable; he just seems to exude earnestness and likability. He and Emily Blunt managed to achieve a great onscreen chemistry, which is hard to come by these days. I especially enjoyed their first encounter in a fancy bathroom.

George Nolfi is a scriptwriter turned director, he wrote for Ocean’s Twelve and The Bourne Ultimatum, so Matt Damon’s involvement in the project is clearly not a coincidence. Moreover, there is more than a hint of Bourne in some of the scenes from The Adjustment Bureau. Also, the whole doors-as-portals-opening-at-random-locations concept is an old idea, which I think I saw in some car advert a couple of years ago.  The idea of having an attractive politician as the protagonist is, on the other hand, quite innovative. Perhaps, Obama had something to do with the way politicians are perceived these days.

The Adjustment Bureau tries to cover a lot of ground; it is a sci-fi film, a thriller with a bit of action and a romantic story. Whether it was done successfully or not depends on your personal tastes, I personally think that there was a certain balance to it. It could have potentially been very light-hearted, but it is played with a poker face. It should not be taken too seriously though; for a Sunday night thriller it is more than adequate.

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