The Adjustment Bureau

Another film adapted from the great American science fiction novelist Philip K. Dick whose novels have been the inspiration for such films as Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), Screamers (1995), Minority Report (2002), Paycheck (2003), A Scanner Darkly (2006), and Next (2007). This time the movie The Adjustment Bureau (2011) is based on a Philip Dick short story called The Adjustment Team.

The movie is an alternate reality sci-fi film that is accessible to everyone even if you’re not a fan of the genre because the movie doesn’t look sci-fi or Matrixy. It’s about a mysterious group of men (The Bureau) who are like guardian angels called 'case officers' but look more like special government agents with special powers that adjust our destinies by subtly nudging or encouraging us in directions that are according to a grand plan. We are told that this was deemed necessary because whenever we were left on our own, with free will, we almost destroyed the planet. For example Dark Ages, World War I, Fascism, World War II, Holocaust, and Cuban missile crisis. One of the funny lines in the film is when the Matt Damon character David Norris says to a Bureau agent called Thompson, played by Terence Stamp, ‘If you’re in control of the important things then your incompetent because when I look around these days the world still seems a pretty screwed up place?’ to which the answer is ‘It’s still here. If we’d left things in your hands, it wouldn’t be.’

When a New York politician David Norris (Matt Damon), recently from Hereafter (2010) and Green Zone (2010), and a Dancer in a ballet company Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), recently from The Wolfman (2010) and The Devil Wears Prada (2006), get together and fall in love accidentally despite plans that they should not meet, the grand plan is disrupted and the special agents go to work to fix the potential damage by keeping them apart. We later learn that there is a reason that these two have such strong feelings for each other and they will not give up trying to be together.

It’s a fascinating and original concept and the story is well thought out. What makes this film even better is that the performances and chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are genuine. Besides being a mix of action thriller, love story and sci-fi/alternate reality, it also has a great message. You come out at the end of the film thinking about philosophical questions of our fates and how much are we in control of our own fates and how much is chance. How much free will do we really have and how willing are we to break away from our pre-determined destinies and follow the path of our passions and beliefs? These are very big and difficult questions to answer but this movie is not afraid to ask the big questions in an entertaining way. This exposes the viewer to entertain the idea of opening his mind to new possibilities which so few movies do anymore.

It’s a great movie to take your girlfriend or spouse to see. It reminded me in many ways of the 1998 movie Pleasantville with Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon which also asked big questions using an entertaining alternate reality that was accessible to everyone even if you’re not a fan of the genre. It's more of a romantic comedy but has great performances by an excellent cast just like The Adjustment Bureau and both projects are labors of love. These two movies make for a great double bill of back to back viewing.


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