Ed reviews: 'The Adjustment Bureau'

 

PG-13

3.5 stars

After the sneak preview for The Adjustment Bureau, I heard a few people state that the movie wasn't

what they thought it was going to be. They seemed to like the film, but there

appeared to be some resentment over what they perceived as a bait-and-switch.

Based on the ads on TV, I can understand where there might be some confusion.

The ads sort of present the movie as a cross between Inception and The Bourne Identity. Lots of ominous-looking men in hats and suits using

doorways as portals between relatively distant locations – Oooh, how Inceptiony! - plus lots of footage of the Hat Squad chasing

Matt Damon – Hey, that Bourne feller got chased all over the place too!

The Adjustment Bureau

is a love story dealing with fate and determination, wrapped in some enjoyable

sci-fi hoodoo. It's entertaining, the cast is fun to watch, the Hat Guys glower

in an amusing fashion and the score by Thomas Newman manages to stand out

without overwhelming the story, a mean trick for a soundtrack.

Writer-director George Nolfi's screenplay, very loosely

based on a short story from the '50s by the great Philip K. Dick, follows David

Norris (Damon), a rising politician whose impulsive nature gets him into

trouble sometimes. After losing an election, he goes to a bathroom to hide and

runs into Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), a bright, personable Brit, who is doing

the same thing. Sparks fly — they were meant to be! — but maybe not.

Turns out that the Adjustment Bureau doesn't want the couple

to be a couple. David finds out about this when he goes into the wrong place at

the wrong time and catches the Hat Guys in a room full of freeze-framed humans,

doing some rearranging of some man's brain. They spell things out for David

— their job is to follow the instructions of "The Chairman" and make sure

everything on Earth goes according to the big plan. David is informed that no

matter how much he tries, they'll block his efforts to reconnect with Elise. In

more sinister tones, they warn him that if he tells anybody about them, they'll

erase his brain.

It all boils down to this: David pursues Elise because they

are meant to be. The Hat Guys interfere because they aren't meant to be.

Renegade Hat Guy Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) starts helping David. And

there are several foot chases, made more fun because of the Hat Guys' ability

to open a door here and emerge in a vastly different location.

I like Matt Damon and I like his character David — his

honesty, determination and occasional recklessness won me over. I like Emily

Blunt and I like Elise — she's not in on the machinations of the

Adjustment Bureau and her pain and confusion felt genuine. I enjoyed watching

her dance, too. I found the relationship between David and Elise to be more

credible than most star-crossed pairings. Anthony Mackie is sad, subversive and

solid, and the Hat Squad includes John Slattery from Mad Men and Terence Stamp, old General Zod in the flesh. Who

could resist such coolness?

What I could resist were elements of the last 20 minutes of

the movie. Too much yakking, too much explaining. Worst of all, one of the

characters tries to explain the moral of the story and no movie should ever

explain its own moral. But by the time The Adjustment Bureau started screwing up, it had built up enough good

will with me that it was easy to forgive the excesses. Wish I had one of those

hats, though.

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