Turning a Sharp Eye on THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU

“You’re that guy running for Senate, aren’t you?”

A couple of weeks ago, I was up in Dallas, and wound up with passes for a free screening of THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. It was the second screening for the film that I had passes for, but I missed the first one, mostly because I just hadn’t felt like going to Dallas that day. After seeing the movie at the second screening, the thought did cross my mind, what did I miss by not going the first time?

But it was just a fleeting thought, because I don’t buy into the sort of things that movies show. I don’t think an alien invasion will only hit major American cities. I don’t believe that the girl who may have liked me in elementary school is going to be the woman I grow up to marry. And I don’t think there are unseen, anonymous men who play with what I will or won’t do throughout the days of my life.

Which is what this movie is about – free will versus destiny, as controlled by the Adjustment Bureau.

Matt Damon is David Norris, a young politician and Senate hopeful who looses a huge lead due to controversial photos in the press. The night of the election, he goes to the men’s restroom to come up with what he’s going to say…and meets Emily Blunt’s Elise when she fumbles out of a stall. Turns out, she’s hiding from hotel security for crashing a wedding, and, after a bit of inspiration for David, he’s off to give his concession speech & she’s back to being on the run from the security guards.

Of course, the speech is so good, David is instantly the front runner for the position he just lost, and gets a job to kill time until the next election.

Not long after, one of the members of the Bureau messes up, and David runs into Elise again on a bus. She instantly brightens his day, and they flirt like high school kids while making plans to get together again, soon.

This is not according to the plan that the Chairman of the Bureau has mapped out for David.

When David arrives at his day job, he finds the Bureau at work on his co-workers, and when he tries to run, he’s taken to a holding area that looks a lot like an empty parking garage.

John Slattery is Richardson, a member of the Bureau, who has to explain to David what’s what. There’s a plan for him, he has to follow it, and Elise isn’t part of it. David is given a choice – he can voluntarily agree to give up on Elise & follow through with his destiny, or he can be mind-wiped by the Bureau & end up a vegetable. So, of course, he agrees to go along with the plan.

But then, for two years, he rides the same bus he saw Elise on, waiting to see her again…

…and when he does, all hell kind of breaks loose for the Bureau, and they’re forced to bring in Terrance Stamp’s Thompson, a Bureau member who doesn’t pull his punches.

In the movie, it’s explained that the Bureau causes little things – misplaced keys, a lost number, spilled coffee, power outages – to happen to make big changes. They wear snappy suits, cool hats, and have neat little books with color-coded animated lines to show where things are going.

And, of course, it’s strongly suggested that the Chairman is God, and the Bureau agents are angels…but thinkin’ about it now, I have to wonder, why weren’t any of the agents women? It’s a multi-ethnic group, sure, but there was a serious gender bias.

Matt Damon is very likable in this movie, and it isn’t hard to see why he would be at the top of the political polls in this world. John Slattery gives a good performance as Thompson, and it is always great to see Terrance Stamp, but that may just be because “Kneel before Zod” left such an impression on my young mind. Whenever I hear that man talk, I hear that tone, doesn’t matter what role he’s in. Emily Blunt looks good, and if she did her own ballet dancing for this, more power to her for it. It doesn’t compare to the ballet that Natalie Portman did for BLACK SWAN, but still…

All in all, though, I enjoyed the movie, and I’m glad I was able to see it. They had free miniposters after the movie, which I passed on to my nephews to hang in their room. And I recommend it for folks who still have it playing at their local theater. I know, the turnover these days is pretty quick, and some towns, like the one I’m in now, don’t even show every movie.

Tom Sharp

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