Published Mar 03, 2011Often when expanding a Philip K. Dick short story for the screen, the action is played up and many of the psychological implications are marginalized. First-time director George Nolfi's The Adjustment Bureau, derived from Dick's Adjustment Team, takes a different tack, framing a look behind the veil of destiny as a whimsical romance.
Matt Damon stars as Senate hopeful David Norris, a rock star politician and man of the people. His bid goes awry after an immature mooning is highly publicized. While practicing his concession speech in the washroom, he meets the enigmatic, free-spirited Elise (Emily Blunt), with whom he has an immediate connection. She inspires him to give the best speech of his career, but they are parted before exchanging contact info, never meant to see each other again. This is part of "the plan," as alluded to by suspiciously well-dressed men in long coats and hats who meet on the periphery of events, discussing getting Norris "back on track."
According to Norris's destiny, depicted in ever-evolving diagrams in mystical books carried by the adjusters, it's imperative he spill coffee on himself rather than catching the bus to work. When Norris's adjuster, or "case worker," as he calls himself, misses the window in which he was to cause the spill, Norris is reunited with Elise and thrown off his path. After reconnecting with the love of his life, he arrives at work early to find his co-workers frozen, mid-adjustment. With the curtains of reality thrown back, Norris is given a choice: stay on the path chosen by the higher ups and keep silent about what he's seen or have his mind erased.
Blunt and Damon have great chemistry and their playful rapport is the beating heart of the picture. Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), Terence Stamp (The Limey) and Mad Men's John Slattery are well suited to their respective roles as differing levels of authority in the Bureau, with Slattery's Richardson delivering his particular brand of wry humour.
Rather than taking Dick's favoured angle of questioning psychosis versus one's perception of reality, The Adjustment Bureau raises the spectre of love's ability to smother ambition and whether the choices we make serve the self or the greater good of humanity. A great romance at the centre of a classy sci-fi mystery (even with some heavy-handed religious parallels), The Adjustment Bureau is worth your time. (Universal)