The Adjustment Bureau Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated February 10th, 2012 at 11:58 am,

The Adjustment Bureau The Adjustment Bureau Review

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.

The Adjustment Bureau Damon Slattery The Adjustment Bureau Review

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?

The Adjustment Bureau Review The Adjustment Bureau Review

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:

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Our Rating:

4 out of 5

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  1. Hopefully seeing this next week, great to see such a good review.

  2. I wasn’t expecting such a strong review was debating if I should see this but I think I will after reading this

  3. I didnt think “Inception” when i saw the trailer for this movie. I thought “Dark City”. A group behind the scenes that can bend reality at will, constantly changing society at their whim.

    Looking forward to seeing this movie

    • That what I thought. Dark City was a great movie.

    • Personally I got an Inception vibe from the trailer. With all the things being shown like running in to a closet and vanishing and all the other weird effects. I knew it wasn’t going to have the same story, but I got a vibe that it had some similar aspects and had it come out 6 months later I’d suggest it was inspired by Inception, but with the current release timing wouldn’t fit.

      • I guess it could go either way.

      • The first time I saw the trailer for this, I got a bit of a “Matrix” vibe from it. Either way, it looks pretty good and I might even go check it out this weekend.

  4. Nice to see the ranters hitting this review lol

  5. I’m really looking forward to seeing this movie. I’ve been interested in it for a while. The positive review on here only makes me more interested in it. I also liked to 70% approval on Rotten Tomatoes. Happy that this movie was well-received.

  6. This is a no brainer..I am there. Thanks for the review.

  7. Emily Blunt… Hell Yes!

  8. The same idea is used on fringe, i think.
    Excellent review though.

    • Yeah, but this is based on a book, so Fringe used the same idea from the book.

      • Isn’t this based on a PKD book?

        • Yes, A short story by him called “Adjustment Team”

  9. This movie looks really good and a nice review Ill see this and Rango :)

  10. Bourneception

    • I don’t really get where the Bourne comes from, outside of Matt Damon.

  11. The one fatal flaw I see immediately is, if they can “adjust” things without people knowing, why not just adjust David without his knowing? What makes him so special that he gets to see the wizard behind the curtain as it were? Hopefully, they answer this question or I am going to find the movie rather disappointing.

    • Maybe it is only when people realise they are being adjusted (which is rare) that then makes them invulnerable to the process?
      I don’t really know, ain’t not see the film yet.

  12. Thanks for the review Rob been looking forward to this I may go watch it tonight in fact after this review. I was gonna see it no matter what, but now that worry that it may be a huge let down is gone and I will probably be in theaters tonight. Always enjoy Matt Damon even in his less than stellar films I think he’s always great.

    • It’s a choice between this and Unknown. Reckon most of my friends will rather see this, so I shall simply go with the flow.

      • Drsam I enjoyed unknown and you know I’m just about as big of a Liam fan as you, but at the end of the day Unknown is really only a decent film that’s only good because of the strong acting performance of the lead actor. Liam took a bellow average script with only decent directing and made it good with fantastic acting.

        Adjustment Bureau looks fantastic. Have not seen it yet so can’t say for sure, but it certainly looks like it will be better than Unknown and so far is much better received.

        • Yeah that certainly seems to be the case, I’ll see a film just because Neeson is in it, I just hate that I missed Taken at the cinema. But you’re probably right, I’ll see this next week and catch Unknown on dvd.

  13. Like Kyyle23, I didn’t get an Inception vibe from this film, I saw it as a love story with sci-fi elements like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with hints of Dark City (although its nice that its being compared to Inception, that’ll get people to watch it, and did anyone else notice that the latest tv ads featured music from the Inception soundtrack?) so I’m curios to see why people got that vibe.

    Anyway, I’m going to watch this tomorrow along with Rango, so it’ll be a good day for me.

  14. ANYTHING with the great Terrance Stamp is a must see IMO.

  15. I just got done reading a review that gave “The Adjustment Bureau” 2/5. That reviewer didn’t like the soft-sci-fi that the movie projects nor the every-question-answered last scene. But I’m glad this review focuses more on the positives than the negatives. It puts me back in a neutral balance about my expectations for the film.

  16. I heard a radio reviewer say “Matrix if it was done by the Hallmark Channel”…. I’ve never liked that particular guy.

  17. Couldn’t get anyone to watch The baby so i didn’t get to go watch it. :(

  18. What Daniel, you didn’t take the baby to the movie with you? :)

    • I hate those people who bring their babies to the theater and you have to hear it crying for two hours ruining your viewing experience. No thanks I’m not gonna be that couple.

  19. Well said, Rob. Your review pretty much nailed my own feelings about the film as well.

  20. I was just talking to a friend yesterday How about how parents took their young children to see theR rated movie Starship Troopers,
    and then were surprised their childdre cried every time one of the giant bugs were killed.
    So its nice to hear of a parent who knows when it is wise to leave the kids at home.
    anyway,Saw the film,
    I Liked it a lot.

    • Even worse, parents taking their 6 yr olds to see HP and the Half Blood Prince. It’s dark, scary, and grandpa dies. Why do this to your brat?! Is it that these parents are carelessly under-researching the films, or do they selfishly disregard the emotional impact this sort of movie could have on a kindergartener because they want to see the blockbuster themselves? All I know is, I want my ten bucks and two and a half hours back because of them. :)

  21. I do not recomend this film to anyone who enjoys a good movie that they can properlly get into, that also delves into ideas/concepts logically.
    This film dragged on to such a extent that I was suprised when I looked how long it was, I do not doubt that the films concept is both a intriguing and clever one but due to it not being logically and properlly dealt with in this film it is turned into a silly and far fetched one. The concept is introduced far too quicly and audiences are not given a chance to be brought gradually into the story and watch as they dsicover more about the characters and the story as a whole develop, this film does not suprise, shock or anything as such really that I imagined it would do or keep me eagrly watching as the plot thickens. Once the concept is introduced this is not explored enough to make me truely believe in this film or whats happening and Im left with countless chase scenes still thinking ‘what the hell’.
    This is a pointless film that concentrates too much on the romance aspect rather than developing the films concept to make it realistic and a intriguing, worthwhile topic. Theres a predictable, disapointing and unimagintive and creative ending that makes events seem pointless. I wished I watched something different so I didnt waste money at the cinema on this stupid film..

  22. Let’s see….
    Lone male actor,
    Meets and partners up with a BEAUTIFUL and equally alone female actress,
    On the run the entire film,
    Pursued and/or manipulated by a powerful but unseen corporate entity,
    Discovers the truth about the giant unseen corporate entity,…..
    Yep, that’s a Philip K. Dick movie.

    It worked for, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Screamers, Paycheck, Minority Report, Impostor, Next. I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

  23. Finally watched it. Fantastic movie. It is easily the best film so far of 2011 though that doesn’t say much year has not started great.

    4/5 is spot on. Rob curious if you have the same problem rating this film as I do. I loved it I really did and I honestly really want to give it a 4.5 , but every time I think about saying that I get this nagging feeling that it’s just not that good, but certainly better than a 3.5. It seems 4/5 is absolutely spot on.

  24. I LOVED this movie it was an original story told really well and the acting was excellent i think its right up there with inception…if not better!

  25. Bluej, do you hear all those footsteps behind you?
    Thats the sound of the Nolan fans coming for you LOL.

  26. When i read the part inception meets bourne i thought oh yeah gonna be awesome, then watched it and it’s nothing like either of them so why describe it like that, was an ok film don’t get me wrong glad i watched it. I thought the love story was very rushed and spontanious how it came about. Bit boring in parts but overall it’s ok, id give it 2.5/5.