Film review – The Adjustment Bureau

10 March 2011

Written by: Khairun Hamid

Ever wondered why certain things happen to you? Sleeping through your alarm, taking a wrong turn — is it bad luck or are there higher powers at play?

Based on the short story The Adjustment Team by Philip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau focuses on a ‘department’ with the ability to control people’s fate and their attempts to keep two star-crossed lovers apart.

Oscar winner Matt Damon plays David Norris, an ambitious politician on the verge of becoming the youngest senator of New York. A fleeting encounter with the free-spirited Elise, played by the lovely Emily Blunt, is enough to cement a strong bond between the two. Little do they know, the powers that be have other plans for them.

Cue the dapper crew in trilbies and trench coats, led by Mad Men’s John Slattery, all of whom are just doing their jobs in keeping us all to our designated ‘plans’. What ensues is a cat-and-mouse chase across New York as David battles between his feelings and what is predestined for him.

The Adjustment Bureau is the directorial debut for George Nolfi, who also wrote action flicks The Bourne Ultimatum and Ocean’s Twelve, which made me assume it would be a more action-packed movie. There is plenty of action but there is also a strong romantic overtone, which I didn’t necessarily care for. It may be because it attempts to be a thriller-action-drama-romance that it seems to fall flat on all points.

Nevertheless, it was a slick-looking movie — you can’t deny a cast dominated by well-suited men in trilby hats. The chase sequences do keep you in suspense and it brilliantly showcased its New York City setting.

Being a fan of both Damon and Blunt, I may be biased in saying their performances were commendable but I thought there was great chemistry and emotion between them. Slattery and Anthony Mackie were also noteworthy as two very different Bureau members. There is also a short, but arguably forgettable, cameo from film veteran Terence Stamp.

Despite falling short in some aspects, the film is still an enjoyable one. It’s easy on the eye and manages to maintain some intrigue throughout the story. In the end, it raises the question — if you knew what life had in store for you, would you do anything to change it?

Khairun Hamid is studying Master of Global Communications at La Trobe University and is part of the 2011 upstart editorial team. She recently traded in Perth’s sunny beaches for Melbourne’s bright lights in the pursuit of a creative and exciting career of any description.