- the cinematic musings of a self-certified geek


The Adjustment Bureau - Dir. George Nolfi, 108mins, USA, 2011

Black Swan

Copyright MainstreamMatt/Mainstream 2005-2011

Unashamedly stampeding through a minefield of genre mechanics and clichés, The Adjustment Bureau, through no fault of its own, can’t help but suffer from its similarities to everything from source novel author Phillip K. Dick’s other works – Minority Report in particular – to Sci-Fi flecked romance Vanilla Sky/Abre Los Ojos (depending on your predilection), and even hints of the criminally underrated JJ Abrams TV show, Fringe. All credit then that it emerges as a thoroughly entertaining high concept thriller with a big beating heart at its core.


In a nutshell, it’s a story of boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, mysterious guys in trilbies attempt to manipulate destiny at the behest of “the chairman” in order to keep boy from getting girl. Simple.


Damon is David Norris, a reformed bad-boy running for Senate whose chance meeting with Elise (Blunt) sets him on a course that wasn’t pre-determined for him by the mysterious Adjustment Team (wonderful performances from Mackie and Mad Men’s John Slattery). Given the choice of abandoning the woman he loves or risking some kind of futuristic lobotomy, David decides to go with his heart and change the future.


Ridiculously promoted on the posters as “The Bourne Identity meets Inception”, so that anyone expecting that chimera will be severely disappointed on both counts. The similarity with Bourne is solely down to Matt Damon and the fact that he does a little bit of running during the Monsters Inc style finale. The Inception link, aside from being a cheap marketing ploy, is simply down to the same perception manipulation that has been prevalent in Sci-Fi since Neo followed the white rabbit.


Those seeking a discourse on destiny, fate, and theological subtexts may also come away grumbling at the many questions and theories that the film raises but fails to answer. The Adjustment Bureau threatens to build to a huge revelatory climax, only to resolve things with a shrug of the shoulders and an audible “Is that it?” from the naysayers.


This doesn’t really matter if you’ve bought into the central concept that love will not be dictated to by fate, and it’s largely thanks to the lead relationship on which the plot hinges, that you do.


Damon and Blunt are fantastic; he is cocksure as the flyboy politician, instantly likeable, and especially strong during an impromptu concession speech instigated by his meeting with Blunts dancer.  And she continues her trend of being the best thing about any movies she’s in (see Gulliver’s Travels for her performance alone). It’s a turn of irresistible charm that helps convince the viewer to root for Damon’s cause of sacrificing everything for her. Their scenes of easy dialogue exchanges are The Adjustment Bureau’s real stand-out set-pieces.


It’s hard to recall much “action”; most of the more lively scenes rely on cat-n-mouse pursuits and clever domino style cause and effect sequences that are more inventive than exhilarating.


Only a limp ending with plot advancing decision making from previously intelligent characters prevents this from being great. Instead it remains a very, very good entry into the Sci-Fi canon.