{2jtab: Movie Review}

The Adjustment Bureau - Movie Review

3 Stars

There’s an empty sort of spirituality that echoes throughout The Adjustment Bureau.  It isn’t concrete and, as a result, it certainly isn’t all that confident in what it’s trying to say about angels and heaven and the sort, but it’s there.  Briefly – like Alex Proyas’ Knowing before it.  Of course, this is Hollywood and looks matter way too much, so that spirituality is clothed in tailor-made suits and some mighty fine and “special” felt hats.  Based on a story by Philip K. Dick from 1954, The Adjustment Bureau wants to trade its conceptual wings for a set of wheels and have the kind of driven success that the ‘what if’ moments of Inception had, but it can’t escape its own metaphysical hollowness.

David Norris (Matt Damon) has the type of life some of us can only dream about.  He’s a political success story…until he loses the senatorial race in his climb toward The White House.  Elise (Emily Blunt) is a ballet dancer who is mysteriously hanging around a men’s room at the Waldorf (a moment to be explained later).  Seems they weren’t supposed to meet.  Ever.  Over many years, they are, time and time again, “interrupted” by well-dressed men from AMC’s Mad Men.  Even as Norris sees success and failure in politics, the nice men in suits, namely a guardian named Harry (Anthony Mackie), don’t see fit to allow the connection to occur between the ballet dancer and the politician.

Under the instruction of The Chairman, the hat-wearing people seem to control the big wheels of fortune for us common folk – those that do not wear magically transporting hats and fine-fitting suits – and protect us from knowing too much.  Then there is Thompson (Terence Stamp), a high-level guardian who reveals the truth to Norris one day.  Seems he and Harry’s boss, Richardson (John Slattery), is none too pleased about his tip off to Norris.  As a result, Richardson warns Norris not to play too hard and too often with the “pick” of Destiny, but Norris can’t help himself or his attraction to Elise.  Eventually, he does exactly what Spielberg’s Minority Report taught us: Everybody runs.

What works best about the movie are the two main actors in highly-charged scenes that absolutely drip with romance and their shared on-screen chemistry.  If these two actors – Blunt and Damon – once shared (and I’m not saying they did) a steamy night together and wish to keep it a secret, well, I’d believe it based on these performances; everything pulls them together in some very interesting and intimate moments.  It’s too bad the randomness of the script and the resulting weightless direction can’t match their talents.

While it is great to see Damon bounce his acting off a female (instead of fleeing alone again), The Adjustment Bureau is simply too reliant upon moments of head-slapping absurdities to be taken too seriously – which is exactly how it’s being played.  Believe this is happening.  Believe this is possible, the movie seems to scream in certain moments.  Yet, nothing prepares us for the deus ex machina moments that crust the mechanics of the narrative before it has had a chance to be properly oiled.

The concept behind The Adjustment Bureau is cool enough to garner sustainable interest, but the sci-fi delivery is a tad too clumsy from first-time writer/director George Nolfi to ever be slick enough to actually stick its intended spiritual landing.  Of course, none of Dick’s original storyline remains in the movie which might be another reason why this film can’t soar with purpose.  Instead of the satirical “and now I know – get me outta here so I can go home and sleep” plotline, the source material has been disregarded in favor of a hokey script which positions man as evil, bubble gum theocracy, and slippery digital effects.

Everybody might run at some point in life, but even the shiniest Cadillac on the lot still needs a bit of gas in its tank to actually get anywhere.  The Adjustment Bureau, sadly, has only enough to get its audience halfway there.  For some, this will be enough.  For others, the walk ahead of them is going to leave them wishing for their own transportational hat…if only to get them away from the movie.


{2jtab: Film Details}

The Adjustment Bureau - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image..
: George Nolfi
: George Nolfi
Matt Damon; Emily Blunt; Jon Stewart; Natalie Carter
Genre: Thriller | Romance
Memorable Movie Quote:
"You're that guy who's running for Senate, aren't you?"
They stole his future. Now he's taking it back.
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date: March 4, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date:
June 21, 2011

Plot Synopsis: Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us? Matt Damon stars in the thriller The Adjustment Bureau as a man who glimpses the future Fate has planned for him and realizes he wants something else. To get it, he must pursue the only woman he’s ever loved across, under and through the streets of modern-day New York. On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, ambitious politician David Norris (Damon) meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt)—a woman like none he’s ever known. But just as he realizes he’s falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself—the men of The Adjustment Bureau—who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. In the face of overwhelming odds, he must either let her go and accept a predetermined path…or risk everything to defy Fate and be with her. The Adjustment Bureau is written for the screen and directed by George Nolfi (writer of Ocean’s Twelve, co-writer of The Bourne Ultimatum). It is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick (“Total Recall,” “Minority Report” and “Blade Runner”). www.theadjustmentbureau.com

{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Review}

The Adjustment Bureau - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars
4 stars
Blu-ray Experience
3.5 stars


Blu-ray Review:

Available on Blu-ray - June 21, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); Digital copy (on disc); DVD copy; BD-Live; D-Box; Mobile features

1080p 1.85:1 VC-1 encode presentation is ripe with blue tones and golden branches of a sepia dip.  The image is sharp throughout and details are fine.  The grain remains natural and there is a consistency to the images that, in spite of the amount of tinkering done to the stylized look of the film, are always realistic with rich texture.  The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is strong throughout and immerses the viewer in the world of the film with great finesse.



  • In what feels pieced-together from bits of interviews, Writer-Director George Nolfi’s start-and-stop commentary provides a wealth of information about adapting the story and bringing it to the silver screen.  It’s an interesting commentary but not the smoothest of deliveries.

Special Features:

While the seven deleted scenes reveal a whole new character that was cut from the film, there really is nothing too terribly special or revelatory included here to add value to the film.  The location featurette is interesting – especially if you are a fan of New York City – but, due to the awkward operating of the ‘Labyrinth of Doors’ featurette (which attempts to recreate the wormhole effect, the supplemental material here is a bit of a letdown.

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (7 min)
  • Leaping Through New York (7 min)
  • Destined to Be (5 min)
  • Becoming Elise (7 min)
  • Labyrinth of Doors
  • DVD Copy


{2jtab: Trailer}