Screen Rant’s Rob Frappier reviews The Adjustment Bureau
The Adjustment Bureau is being billed as an Inception-style thriller. It’s not. Unlike Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending action spectacular, The Adjustment Bureau is a much more subtle film, augmenting a relatively straightforward plot with strong performances and just enough science-fiction fluff to get the audience thinking.
Thinking about what? Why, only one of the most important questions of all: The question of free will.
David Norris (Matt Damon, playing the affable regular guy persona he’s been perfecting since Good Will Hunting) is a rising politician in New York. He’s young but popular with voters, appealing to a wide range of demographics thanks to his unique Brooklyn upbringing. Emily Blunt plays Elise Sellas, a beautiful and impetuous dancer.
In a delightful “Meet Cute,” the pair hit it off right away and Elise’s spontaneity rubs off on David. I find it hard to believe in “love at first sight,” even in the movies, but Damon and Blunt make a wonderful pair and really play off each other well. From the moment they meet, you really do want them to be together.
Unfortunately, Fate has other plans in mind (and I use Fate with a capital “F” for a reason). In one of the first chase scenes in the film, David runs up against the men from the “Adjustment Bureau,” a strange, bureaucratic-seeming bunch of sharply dressed men who can control just about anything with the flick of a finger. They inform him, about as nicely as they can, that he can’t see Elise again, and that he probably shouldn’t tell anybody about the Adjustment Bureau either.
Naturally, David isn’t content to give up on the woman of his dreams just because of a few men in hats (the three primary adjusters are played wonderfully by John Slattery, Anthony Mackie, and Terence Stamp) and so the movie goes. I won’t say much more beyond that, though I will say that the banter between David and the adjusters provides some of the best moments in the movie.
I made a point at the beginning of the review to note that, despite its marketing, The Adjustment Bureau is not like Inception. I should also say that that’s not a bad thing. The Adjustment Bureau is a sci-fi film, but it’s what you might call a “light” sci-fi film. While the film raises important questions about predestination and free will, it doesn’t force the viewer into pondering philosophical or theological quandaries so complex that they lose hold of the narrative.
The ultimate role of the Adjustment Bureau is hinted at, and it’s fairly clear whom the adjusters are supposed to be, but the movie is never really about them, nor should it be. The Adjustment Bureau, with its literal “agents of fate,” is a plot device for a film focused not on destiny, but on love.
Come to think of it, The Adjustment Bureau is the perfect date movie, because, underneath it all, it’s a heartwarming romance more than anything else. Some may find that fact unappealing, but the romantic in me enjoys it. Is there a better character goal than true love?
Bottom line, The Adjustment Bureau offers an appealing story, solid acting, and more than competent direction from first-timer George Nolfi (Nolfi previously wrote Ocean’s Twelve and The Bourne Ultimatum). The action sequences are sparse but effective, and Nolfi uses New York City as a wonderful backdrop for the movie. All in all, The Adjustment Bureau is a very enjoyable film that works extremely well on one level, and hints at an even more intriguing level just beyond the surface.
If you choose to follow up on the philosophical questions posed by this film, I suggest starting with John Calvin. But if you’re content to enjoy the film as it is, 100 minutes of quality action, humor, and romance, that’s great too.
For the record, you can count me among the latter. If I want to spend time scratching my head and wondering “what it’s all about?” I’d rather go lay under the stars. Of course, I do watch movies to be intellectually stimulated, but mostly I watch to be entertained. With The Adjustment Bureau, I got a little bit of the former, and a whole lot of the latter.
If you’ve already seen The Adjustment Bureau, head over to our discussion post – to chat about anything that could spoil the experience for others.
However, if you’ve yet to see The Adjustment Bureau, check out a trailer below: