Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: The Adjustment Bureau

I remember at the outset of The Adjustment Bureau’s theatrical run, some moviegoers had a negative reaction to the film.  It wasn’t so much about the quality as it was about the movie failing to meet consumer expectations.  Having finally seen it, I now understand why.  I believe this disconnect was directly tied into the theatrical marketing for the film, which in hindsight looks like a  textbook example of the good ole “bait and switch.”

The movie is built on the premise that there is a secret organization –The Adjustment Bureau - of men who work for the grand architect (a non denominational way of describing angels and God respectively) who make sure the events of the world follow a master plan.  When things go awry, these men who appear as dopplegangers of the stereotypical G-man of the 60’s) can stop time, erase minds, and alter the course of events.  Matt Damon’s David Norris, an aspiring Senator, has a penchant for going off plan especially when it comes to Emily Blunt’s Elise Sellas and thus the events of the movie are launched. 

While the premise is not wholly original, it has enough sheen that the marketing folks at Universal billed it as this mind-bending film.  Throw-in a series of carefully cut trailers leveraging Matt Damon’s action cache and the “based on a novel by Philip K. Dick” tagline for sci-fi fans, and the message that reached the public was that The Adjustment Bureau is cut from the same cloth as The Matrix.  But really, the movie has far more in common with The Notebook than it does that or any other sci-fi/action film.  With that being said, it is an entertaining film.

There are three key elements to create a successful romantic narrative:
1. Two protagonists who are engaging and dynamic.  They must share the kind of chemistry that will draw empathy from the audience
2. The presence of significant obstacles that legitimately threaten to derail the budding romance.
3. Closure -  good or bad.

Damon and Blunt are up to meeting the challenge of the first element creating characters that have depth and building a genuine sense of tragedy that their characters have been kept apart by powers they cannot fully comprehend.  The rest of the cast accounts for element number two as Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Terrence Stamp, and a slew of other actors dressed in trench coats and an array of hats (bowler, fedora, bowler, et al) bring life and gravitas to faceless agents who for the most part wield their authority against the protagonists void of emotion.   As for the third element, director George Nolfi does a decent the job of bringing closure to the plot even though it is a bit telegraphed.  Still, it makes  the final statement of the film palatable for the viewer. 

Is it a groundbreaking film?  No.  Is it an interesting story?  Yes.  I would suggest seeing it especially since it’s been out on DVD for a while and can also easily be found on pay cable channels.  As long as you go into the film with your expectations aligned to the actual product, you should find yourself reasonably entertained.

Standout PerformanceAnthony Mackie does a nice job as the third most pivotal character in this film and as a moral compass. 


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