The Adjustment Bureau
Written and Directed by George Nolfi
DVD, Universal Studios
Review by Wayne C. Rogers
Back in March, I remember being at work and listening to person from the Sales Office telling my office director about The Adjustment Bureau. He was stressing the SciFi aspects of the movie (the film is based on a Phillip K. Dick short story), along with its strong theme of free will versus destiny or fate. That was all good, but I’d seen the previews for the movie and what had initially stuck me were the romantic elements within the film – the romantic relationship between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.
The question for me was what would a man be willing to risk in order to be with the woman he loved? Now, I’m not talking about common love (often mixed up with sexual attraction) or friendship, but rather the type of love that when you first meet someone, you know in your heart that the two of you are meant to be together. No logical arguments can counter what you feel because this involves soul mates, and, yes, I firmly believe in soul mates.
Anyway, I managed to get my director’s attention for a second and said to her, “It’s really a love story. A man has to face insurmountable odds to be the woman he loves.” Her eyes immediately lit up because most women dream of finding that one person they’re meant to be with.
Though I wanted to see the movie on the big screen, obstacles placed in my path (fate?) prevented me from doing so at that time. Instead, I had to wait for the DVD to come out this past week.
It was definitely worth the wait!
Written and directed for the screen by George Nolfi, the movie blew me away yesterday when I watched it. The film was all I could think about through the night and then again this morning. In fact, I liked it so much that I had to watch the movie again this afternoon. It had everything I could possibly hope for. The script was well written. The direction (this is George Nolfi’s first film) was perfect. The photography and lighting were right on the dot with New York City as the backdrop. The music was excellent in that it captured the spirit and mood of the movie exactly as it should, drawing you into each scene without you being aware of it.
The movie also brought forth some tough questions concerning free will and the possibility of a higher power and fate, and actually tried to answer some of them by the end. The supporting cast of Terence Stamp, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, and Michael Kelly were ideal in their roles, adding realism to a totally unbelievable plot.
What really sold the movie to me, however, were the two lead characters – Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. They made you believe and care about their characters, which was absolutely necessary for the film to work. You had to look at these two people and believe in your heart that they were in love with each other and were willing to do whatever it took to be together. Both actors succeeded beyond my wildest expectations.
The storyline centers on Congressman David Norris (Matt Damon) and his attempt to become a Senator and then eventually the President of the United States. David has been alone for all of his adult life because his parents and older brother died when he was young. He turned to politics as a way of finding love and acceptance from others. He loses his first senatorial race and is about to give a speech conceding his loss and his desire to come back in three years to try again. While he’s rehearsing his speech in the privacy of the Men’s Restroom, Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) comes out of one of the stalls where she’s been hiding after crashing a wedding and starts to talk to David.
It is love at first sight for both of them, but little is done to ensure they’ll meet again. What Emily does is inspire David to go out and give the best speech of his life. He talks to the crowd from his heart and about the reality of politics and wins them completely over.
The next morning, a member of the Adjustment Bureau (Anthony Mackie) is supposed to make sure that David Norris doesn’t get on a particular bus in downtown New York City. If David gets on the bus, he’ll see Emily again and this could change his destiny. David, however, makes the bus and ends up sitting next to Emily. They banter back and forth as if they’ve known each other for years. It seems perfectly natural, and I think this is when I fell in love with both characters and started rooting for them to eventually get together.
The Adjustment Bureau has other plans for David and basically kidnaps him a little later to have a long hard talk about the reality of his situation. They quickly realize that the truth is necessary with him so the leader of the group (John Slattery) explains to David about the bureau and how they work for the Chairman. You can interpret this as angels in human form, working for God. The purpose of the bureau is to give nudges when necessary to insure certain destinies are followed through. In other words, mankind has free will when it comes to picking out their toothpaste or whatever soda they want to drink during lunch, but on the bigger issues the Adjustment Bureau has to take charge to make sure man doesn’t inadvertently destroy the planet. Every time man has been allowed to have free will throughout history, it has brought on the Dark Ages, World War I and II, and the near annihilation of humanity. They want to make sure that David makes it to the White House, and his relationship with Emily could jeopardize that. To guarantee that David doesn’t see Emily again, they burn the card with her phone number on it and tell him to find someone else to build a life with.
I don’t want to give too much away about the rest of the film, but after three years apart, David accidentally runs into Emily again and that sets the ball in motion so to speak. Through more trials and tribulations, David and Emily have to run with the Adjustment Bureau hot on their trail. Will true love and free will win out, or will the Adjustment Bureau have their way and separate the two lovers once and for all? You have to watch the movie to find out.
I’ve been a big fan of Matt Damon since he co-wrote and starred in Good Will Hunting and then did Geronimo: An American Legend. I’ve been fortunate enough to watch him grow as an actor, and he simply keeps getting better and better with each role. He’s not afraid to stretch himself or to get physical. I love the Bourne trilogy (a fourth one is in the making), but when you see Matt in Hereafter and Invictus, you begin to realize he will soon win an Academy Award for Best Actor. It’s coming. It’s just a matter of time. The Adjustment Bureau certainly sealed my affinity to him as a diehard fan. He made you believe in the impossible, which required some serious acting skills.
I wasn’t too familiar with Emily Blunt before The Adjustment Bureau. I’d seen her in The Devil Wears Prada, and then kind of forgot about her. Sorry, Emily. In The Adjustment Bureau, however, there was no way I couldn’t help but fall in love with her and to root for Matt in his quest to be with this woman. She simply steals your heart with her magnificent acting. She also performed many of the dance moves in the film with the grace and dexterity of someone who’s been dancing and doing ballet for years, but she’s not a dancer. I didn’t know that. She fooled me. Of course, Emily had to train hard to accomplish those dance moves in the film, and I applaud her perseverance and tenacity in making her role come alive with pure authenticity. This actress is going places, too, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if she doesn’t one day win an Oscar for Best Actress.
The DVD of The Adjustment Bureau has a lot of Bonus features on it, including: a commentary with the director, behind-the-scenes on the making of the film, Emily Blunt training for her role as Elise, a look at New York City and how the director used new and different locations for the movie, and a look at destiny and how it fits into the film and even our lives. All the features add to the enjoyment of the movie.
For me, this film was and is a pure enjoyment to watch. I’m happy I decided to purchase it. So many of the newer films I buy tend to leave me feeling empty at the end with no desire to watch them again. This movie is a definite keeper and one I will watch several more times in the immediate future. Maybe it’s the Adjustment Bureau giving me a nudge. Highly recommended!