When movies come along with seemingly over complicated plots and ideas they tend to alienate potential audiences with misleading trailers. The advertising for THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU might have had that impression on some but after watching it I can see both sides of feeling duped and getting almost exactly what I expected and more. Some movies sprint out of the gate and run out of gas well before the end, leaving all the ideas they set up before lingering behind or collapsing on top of itself. A movie like THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU has a lot in common with Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION; both films have a high concept with complex ideas going on and both keep the CGI effects to a bare minimum. THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU uses a slight of hand method kind of like a great magic trick; you might think you can see the strings but the experience is fun enough to ignore any doubt or confusion.
Rebel politician David Norris (Matt Damon) has his eyes set on a seat at the New York Senate and possibly more on the horizon. He has a chance meeting with the impulsive Elise (Emily Blunt), who immediately makes a distinct impression on him. David stumbles across a secret group of people tasked with keeping people on specific paths and orders him to never see Elise again. David cannot shake the feeling that he is meant to be with Elise and decides that he will stop at nothing to protect his free will.
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU is a film that dips its toes into almost every genre it possibly can. There’s action, science fiction, comedy, thriller and just to round things out, romance. Throughout the film I kept waiting for one to take precedence over the others, but as time passed I loved how the constant shift between playful jabs of romance and comedy mixed with the thriller and drama of the rest of the film. I worried that by intertwining all these genres together would give the film a serious identity crisis but in the end THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU was engaging, exciting and even really moving at times. Don’t get me wrong, no tears were shed, but the message and the acting sold the drama and I really loved what the film was trying to sell.
Emily Blunt and Matt Damon really sell their instant connection and budding romance well. Once the film loses almost all the tension from the first half of the film things do slow down substantially before picking back up during the finale. The best parts of the first half are when Damon is interacting with the people from the adjustment bureau and learning about their world, then challenging them by making split second decisions to keep them on their toes. Unfortunately, first time filmmaker Nolfi loses grasp on what made that first half so great at some point during the middle parts of the film.
I don’t have any firm gripes about the logic of the movie universe that THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU operates in, I feel like if I really tried dissecting every frame of the story my head might explode. Instead I accepted the information given and while I feel like there’s something a little off at times I never let it bother me. Instead the biggest fault against the film is a section in the middle I can only describe as boring. It doesn’t derail the film and it doesn’t last long, but it’s there nonetheless. The film picks back up for the last act and comes to a relatively satisfying ending that I neither loved nor hated. The most important thing is that when the film was over I was extremely happy with the overall experience.
It’s rare to find a science fiction thriller with the heart of a romance and even rarer to find one and say that it wasn’t unbearable. THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU is a film with a solid grasp on its ideas and uses them to near perfection aside from a slight detour in the middle. Damon and Blunt have great chemistry and they both give solid performances. Certainly it’s at your own free will to check this one out and since it’s not for everyone not seeing it isn’t a major deviation off your path. However, I have to insist by giving an extremely persistent yet gentle shove toward checking it out.