Released: 4th March 2011
Director: George Nolfi
Stars: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt
The Adjustment Bureau is a film which I found difficult to review. It’s neither one or the other. It’s not exciting, but I was never really bored. It’s doesn’t break any new ground, but you don’t have the ‘I’ve seen this all before’ syndrome you get from watching a lot of modern films.
So, to the positive points first: The film looks great – the costumes and men’s suits and hats are a delight to see working so well on all that wear them. New York is well photographed and makes use locations like Yankee stadium and The Statue of Liberty to decent effect. All the players are on good form, although it is by far no one’s best work. A first chase scene is well directed and has a urgency and is well contained without going over the top – which it easily could have done.
That’s a short list. And now to the negatives.
The film is terribly flat. Flat, flat, flat. The film is a thriller/suspense but the screenplay never spikes – by this I refer to the points in the screenplay where the audience is thrilled, then has time to breathe… then is thrilled again, and then has time to make sense of what is going on… before being excited again and so on. This film features on good chase scene, but never picks up from there. As the audience, you don’t expect a chase thriller to fall away after the first chase, but The Adjustment Bureau does just that.
Any story loses credibility if you don’t believe in what you’re seeing or in what the characters are doing in their world. Whether it’s Speed, Inception, Schindler’s List, or Toy Story, we have to believe in what we are watching if for no more than the duration of the film. This film revolves around one man’s love for a woman and his determination to spend his life with her, regardless of what The Adjustment Bureau do to try and ‘adjust’ his life without her.
That’s fine if we bought their relationship. But it’s nigh on impossible to create a believable bond in 90-odd minutes whilst trying to juggle chases, political sub-plots, and sci-fi exposition, and keeping the audience entertained throughout.
The whole film felt rushed, despearately moving through the motions as if the producers were scared any pause to allow credible character developments or fearful that taking the time to explain to us what the The Adjustment Bureau are and the powers they have over this world might bore the audience. The reality is exact opposite; this film needs at least another 25 minutes to sell us on its premise.
Another major flaw is in comparisons with other movies based on the stories of Philip K. Dick. It might not be just to compare this with other films, but when they are so similar I believe it only fair.
All the lead characters in other Dick-inspired movies are conflicted men, paranoid of the world they are living in and the ever-present enemies out to get them. In Dick’s world crimes can be stopped before they happen (Minority Report), memories erased (Paycheck), memories implanted (Total Recall), the future seen (Next), and humanity replicated (Blade Runner). In all of these films, the protagonist’s life is in danger because of what he knows or can do – but never in The Adjustment Bureau. I wanted to see Norris (Matt Damon) in peril and become entangled in a situation where he has no choice but to fight. Rather, all he has to do is tell a woman he loves her at her wedding to another man. Hold on to your seat everyone…
Because the threat is never real, the ‘bad guys’ are just an inconvenience to Norris (Matt Damon) rather than a true threat. And where’s the excitement in that?