♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ 1/2 out of ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣
What if every red light, every dropped call, and every missed bus wasn’t because of luck or chance? What if there is someone who makes sure you can’t find your keys in that moment when you’re rushing out the door? What if someones there to keep things going along a “plan?” A plan that must be adjusted when things go wrong…
In the world of The Adjustment Bureau, Matt Damon plays an up-and-coming/bad-boy congressman who takes a PR hit on election night and loses an important bid for New York senate. He retreats to the mens room to gather himself and practice his concession speech, when minutes later, the stunning Emily Blunt emerges from an empty stall. This is what the great Roger Ebert would call a “Meet-Cute,” when two beautiful people meet in a movie and set the rest of the film in motion with a glance or a kiss… and kiss they do, before she leaves (to escape security after wedding crashing) the young congressman to make his concession speech.
Here’s where it gets interesting… In the world of The Adjustment Bureau, everyone and everything is watched over by an FBI-type agency that adjusts events according to their neat little timeline-notebooks. Matt Damon’s character has been guided since before he was born and is of particular importance due to his future in politics. The charming young congressman and the beautiful wildcard ballerina were only “supposed” to meet once. So when he finds his dream-girl sitting on the bus a month later (instead of spilling coffee on his shirt while walking to the bus stop), the meeting that should have been their first, now becomes something that was never meant to be, and excitement ensues.
The Adjustment Bureau reminded me of Inception or The Matrix when I was watching it, due in no short manner to it being loosely based on a Phillip K Dick story, and had the break-neck pacing of Minority Report… but all of this is after thought. Let me stress the fact that while I was watching it, I wasn’t thinking about any of that… I was glued to the screen. The Adjustment Bureau falls into a category of movie that is pretty much perfect… not due to anything that will get it an award… but simply because it all works. The acting, the story, the action, the music, all click together like pieces of a machine that whirls beautifully in front of you. I love being able to walk out of a movie saying, “this is how all movies should be made!” (Also at this point let me stress my perceived difference between “movies” and “films”, films are meant to be taken seriously, movies are for fun.)
I took my 10-year-old daughter to see The Adjustment Bureau, and she loved it (save the one, very tame love scene). So while not the simplest plot I’ve ever seen, the way it is handled is very laymen. I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say: once Damon puts on a hat, things get very intense. The movie dabbles with enough pseudo-philosophy to give it weight, but not enough to hold in down during the action. The Bureau are the agents of fate, who answer to “the chairman…” “Humans have many names for us,” Damon’s caseworker from the Bureau tells him. The story takes place in a complicated world, where people can be yanked out of real life and into a giant warehouse-world-between-worlds kind of place that only the agents have access to.
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because The Adjustment Bureau tells a wonderful and suspenseful story with fragments of stories we’ve already seen… but it doesn’t sink in until after you leave the theater. If you’re like me and can suspend your belief enough to get swept up in a good story, then movies like this are treasure. I can go back and find references to a dozen sci-fi movies in the Bureau, but at the heart of it are Blunt and Damon, who’s chemistry is so good that you can feel their yearning… their love… their earnestness… so at the time I didn’t care, and I still don’t. The Adjustment Bureau is a great, heartfelt action movie that takes the audience on a thrill-ride through New York City, not because of silly plot devices or catchy special effects, but because we’re able to feel with the characters, we want them to succeed, and to overcome the trappings of fate. Sure it has echoes of Inception, the Matrix, and Minority Report, but it’s expertly crafted, and excellently put together, besides- those are all excellent movies to echo.
The Adjustment Bureau is rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image.