Film Review: The Adjustment Bureau

The trailer for The Adjustment Bureau makes the film look highly unappealing. It is actually a lot better than this, but not exactly “Bourne meets Inception” as one of the film’s posters boasts.

David Norris is a New York politician running for senate. Facing defeat on election night, David has a brief encounter with a beautiful young woman. Longing to see her again, chance throws them back together a short while later. Mysterious forces, however, are conspiring to keep them apart…

Based on the short story ‘Adjustment Team’ by Philip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau was adapted and directed by frequent Damon collaborator George Nolfi (screenwriter of Ocean’s Twelve among others). Nolfi goes beyond the necessary padding out of his source material, creating the central characters and the majority of the plot.

The Adjustment Bureau is ultimately letdown by a script that puts emphasis on the romantic angle rather than the more interesting science fiction elements. Although the film can be classified as a sci-fi thriller, the primary focus is on the love story between David and Elise. The Adjustment Bureau would have worked better as science fiction with a romantic subplot. It is the ideas proposed by this aspect of the story that are most interesting, rather than David and Elise’s relationship.

It is easy to draw parallels between The Adjustment Bureau and films such as Dark City, The Truman Show and even The Matrix. Nevertheless, the premise is still fascinating, if not entirely unique. It is a pity that the ideas proposed by The Adjustment Bureau are not explored further. Like The Matrix, Nolfi’s film depicts supernatural beings not as magical entities but as smartly dressed men. The language used in the film is suggests a corporation and a chairman, rather than a mythical higher power.

As David, Matt Damon is decent, as ever, in the type of role that he has become accustomed to. Emily Blunt is convincing as Elise, while Anthony Mackie is appropriately contemplative as struggling bureau man Harry. The Adjustment Bureau strives to create an environment as realistic as possible (initially at least), which includes appearances by well-known individuals such as Jon Stewart.

The Adjustment Bureau is visually sleek, with some of the shots featuring a limited palette of greys and blues. The effects are suitably unassuming, with power being given to an accessory rather than to overly supernatural objects or forces.

The Adjustment Bureau is an engaging watch, but one that is ultimately unsatisfying. The film fails to live up to its interesting premise with too much focus on the relationship and a lacklustre conclusion.