"The Adjustment Bureau" is one of those movies that's very exciting and entertaining while you're watching it, but completely falls apart upon further reflection.
It's exceptionally filmed, edited and acted, but the script is a mess, and the ending is a cop out that, at the same time, makes just about no sense.
The film, which has sat on the shelf for an extended period of time, is yet another Philip K. Dick adaptation—by this point, I'm pretty sure everything he ever wrote has become a movie at least once. The plot is a hash of "The Matrix," "Inception" and "The Manchurian Candidate," with a little bit of religious allegory thrown in for good measure. It's also a little bit of a drama, with a whiff of sci-fi, romance and action.
Matt Damon stars as David Norris, a congressman from Red Hook, Brooklyn, who at the movie's start is running for the Senate. We're told that his parents died when he was young, and that his career has sometimes been derailed by his penchant for barroom fisticuffs. (Matt Damon as an orphan from a blue-collar big city background who's both super-talented and has a weakness for brawling? Where have I seen this movie before?)
Anyway, on election night, Damon meets a fetching mystery woman (Emily Blunt) whom he instantly falls for. But a mysterious group of men in fedoras (led by "Mad Men'"s John Slattery) is dead-set against their being together. They're the Adjustment Bureau of the title, they have the power to manipulate time and space, and their belief is that Damon and Blunt are deviating from "The Plan" by continuing to date.
What is "The Plan?" And who is the Bureau? Do they represent angels, God, Koch Industries? The movie makes none of this clear—and that's exactly the problem.
The film is quite a ride as it goes on, and the mystery posed at the beginning is genuinely engaging. The story is told mostly well until it collapses at the end, and director George Nolfi makes inventive use of New York locations.
A chase scene near the end is especially impressive.
As for the acting, I believed that Damon was in love with Blunt and was being chased by bad guys, but I didn't buy him for a second as a politician, or as a native of Red Hook. WASPy golden boys like him don't tend to get elected to office from ethnic enclaves like that. At least it wasn't as embarrassing a politician performance as the one his old buddy Ben Affleck gave in "State of Play."
Blunt gives a strong performance as Damon's ballerina lover, though I'm guessing her scenes didn't require the commitment that Natalie Portman brought to "Black Swan."
And after four years of Roger Sterling, it's sort of jarring to see Slattery give a performance that contains not a single memorable one-liner.
Terrence Stamp replaces him as the villain halfway, though, using the old "24" trick of the previous baddie not being able to cut it and being replaced by a newer, more menacing one.
And the great actress Shohreh Aghdashloo is listed in the credits, but appears to have been cut out of the movie completely.
But ultimately, the story is done in by an ending that practically sucks all of the gravitas out of the film. I won't give it away, but we're left with no conclusion except that the Bureau's decisions are completely arbitrary and meaningless.
"The Adjustment Bureau" has its moments, and Nolfi, the first-time director, seems to really know what he's doing and will make good movies in the future. But the script, during that long delay, could've used a rewrite or three.
The Silver Screen Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
Roll Credits: The Adjustment Bureau
Directed by: George Nolfi
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, John Slattery, Terrence Stamp
Length: 1 hour 39 min.
- Friday, March 4: 1 - 1:40 -3:50 - 4:30 - 6:40 -7:20 - 9:20 - 10:10 p.m.
- Saturday, March 5: 1 - 1:40 -3:50 - 4:30 - 6:40 -7:20 -9:20 -10:10 p.m.
- Sunday, March 6: 1 - 1:40 -3:50 - 4:30 - 6:40 -7:20 -9:20 -10:10 p.m.