Review: “The Adjustment Bureau” Tempts Fate, and Wins

So here’s something you wouldn’t likely guess about “The Adjustment Bureau”—it’s a romance. In fact, if its production value weren’t so high, it’s tone occasionally ominous and if it didn’t have an angry Terrence Stamp, one might even call it a chick flick. And that’s OK.

Based on a short story by Phillip K. Dick, “The Adjustment Bureau” stars Matt Damon as Congressman David Norris and Emily Blunt as Elise Sellas, the beautiful dancer he meets on the night of his defeat in an election for Senate.

But before their romance can blossom, David is visited by The Adjustment Bureau, a shadowy organization in charge of making sure “The Chairman”’s plans are carried out. David is told that he and Elise can’t be together, that “The Chairman” has other plans for each of them. But fate keeps throwing David and Elise together, and soon they decide to make a stand.

The film is filled with sci-fi touches: mysterious men wielding notebooks that track the lives of people in real time, updating constantly to reflect the decision they make at every turn; secret portals that allow you to skip all over New York City; mysterious agents whose powers are stymied by the most mundane things… And yet, “The Adjustment Bureau” is, more than anything a love story about to people determined to be together regardless of what the universe has in store for them.

Be warned, if you’re going ‘cuz you’re a huge fan of Phillip K. Dick, you’re gonna be sorely disappointed, maybe even angry. “The Adjustment Bureau” is very different from “The Adjustment Team,” and doesn’t have that super creepy, hyper-paranoid vibe that Phillip K. Dick fans look for.

The story works in large part thanks to the chemistry between Damon and Blunt, who have an easy and natural rapport. Damon is a perfect Everyman, not too good-looking, totally approachable. Watching his concession speech, you wish you could’ve voted for him. Five years after “The Devil Wears Prada,” Blunt has finally landed in a role where her talents and looks are put to good use—she even dances credibly (when it's actually her doing the dancing).

The film does get a little silly at times—the hat thing is kinda dopey— Damon’s speeches to Blunt during the final chase fall a little flat, and if you chew on the plot too long and hard you can’t help but find some pretty bleak message, like, “Love keeps you from being all that you can be” and “You don’t really have free will.”

First-time director George Nolfi, who worked with Damon as a writer on both “Ocean’s Twelve” and “The Bourne Ultimatum,” also keeps the action crisp and nicely captures New York City through a haze of grays and blues.

Part sci-fi thriller, part romance, “The Adjustment Bureau,” is actually a great date movie that should leave both parties entertained.

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