film review: the adjustment bureau
The Adjustment Bureau follows the story of David Norris (Matt Damon), a New York congressman who is running for Senate. Popular with the people, a last minute hit to his reputation sees him lose the race for office. As he rehearses his concession speech on election night in the Waldorf Hotel’s men’s room, he meets Elise (Emily Blunt). They share a brief but lively conversation and spontaneously kiss, before she runs off into the night. With no last name or phone number, David resigns himself to never seeing her again. Just weeks later, as he makes his way to a new job at a venture capital firm, David boards a New York City bus and sees Elise. The two chat again, and this time David gets her phone number, vowing to call her for a date. Little does he know, there are greater forces at work that morning, and he was never actually supposed to get on that bus and see Elise.
Enter Harry Mitchell who has the path of David’s entire life neatly set out in a small black notebook. Harry received an assignment from his boss to make sure David would never meet Elise again, but he misses the opportunity, and suddenly David’s life has deviated from its neat path: run for Senator, get elected, run for President, get elected, have great success. Suddenly David finds himself in a world where men in suits and hats, led by Richardson (John Slattery) are following him to ensure he does not stray from the designated path again, and the most important part of that plan is that David and Elise never meet again. For three years David accepts his fate as a pre-determined plan he has no control over, while never being able to reveal what he knows. However, a chance sighting of Elise on the street makes him change his mind to try and shake the controlling men that are constantly watching him. With assistance from Harry Mitchell, David puts a plan into place to win Elise back and escape the men from The Adjustment Bureau.
Based on a short story called Adjustment Team by Philip K. Dick, this film was an enjoyable ride through the world of pre-destination and fate. However, one gets the impression that the surfaces of the film’s themes are barely scratched. With the religious themes of God, angels and free will alluded to numerous times, there’s a missed opportunity to make those themes more of a concern for David Norris. While he is determined to escape the Bureau and reunite with Elise, there was plenty of room for more risk taking and in-depth questioning of the forces in charge of the operation as far as the plot is concerned, which disappointingly didn’t happen.
Nevertheless, Damon plays his role well, and Blunt and Slattery are perfect supporting parts. Terrence Stamp’s introduction halfway through the film as Thompson, a high up employee of “the Chairman”, is a welcome addition to the story, adding more layers to plot and allowing David Norris a better understanding of the Bureau’s plans. Overall, this is a film which had lot of potential that wasn’t realised – but it does include characters and themes that will appeal to many audiences.