Movie #4: The Adjustment Bureau (2011), starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, directed by Geroge Nolfi.
The premise of this film according to IMDB.com is thus: “The affair between a politician and a contemporary dancer is affected by mysterious forces keeping the lovers apart.”
At a deeper level, the film explores the conflict between free-will and destiny. Do we make our own choices, or is there an unseen path laid about before us and we’re just following it?
Exploring this idea within a sci-fi thriller/romance hybrid is an interesting vehicle on its surface. But the story itself comes from a short story written by Phillip K. Dick, whose writings have also been adapted to the screen as Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and The Man in the High Castle.
Our two main protagonists (Damon’s congressman David Morris and Blunt’s dancer Elise Sellas) meet in a men’s room as David is practicing his senate bid concession speech and Elise is hiding from security after crashing a wedding. This chance encounter results in instant chemistry between the two (and serves as the beginning of many scenes of witty/entertaining banter between them), that makes it clear to them and us watching that this is a meant to be encounter. Kismet, serendipity, destiny, what have you.
The twist here is that they were never intended to meet by the mysterious figures wearing snappy suits and fedoras. These creepy guys meet up and watch over things from isolated places. They are the guys, as told to David, who make sure things happen according to plan. Who’s plan? They are decidedly mum on that detail.
David ends up running into Elise by chance again, (which was never supposed to happen but was allowed by Anthony Mackie’s (Falcon from our recent Marvel movies) fedora wearing Harry falling asleep when he was supposed to delay David), they share more chemistry, her phone number, and she hilariously plops his cell-phone into his coffee in what was one of my favorite scenes of them together.
In a fun but eerie chase scene that involves David arriving at his office and going about his routing without noticing that the entire place and people in it are frozen in place, David walks in on the Bureau “adjusting” the frozen head/brain of his friend/chief-of-staff/right-hand-man guy Charlie (House of Cards’ Michael Kelly), David is eventually caught by the Bureau and sat down because they have to figure out what to do with him.
Here’s where I got a little feeling of “really?” In a split second, it’s explained to David that he’s “seen behind a curtain he was never supposed to know existed”, he’s witnessed these guys apparently teleport (the fedoras and hats allow them to supernaturally move from place to place through normal doors) and the immediate solution that is set forth is to just tell him “don’t say anything, ok?” (With the threat of completely erasing his mind, yeah, but still, this seemed awfully quick to just let him go with the trust that he’d keep quiet about what he saw.) It’s explained that he cannot be with Elise, now or ever. She is not on his path. They destroy her phone number in front of him.
Three years pass, with David riding the same bus to work where he last saw her everyday, and he chances upon her again. This starts a cat-and-mouse game between David and Elise, desperately trying to stay together after repeatedly feeling so drawn to one-another, and the Bureau, doggedly trying to keep their ducks (and outlined future for David) in a row.
The everyday Bureau agents can’t keep up with David’s improve or determination. So in comes Thompson, a higher-up in the Bureau played supremely creepy and seriously by Terence Stamp, who lets David and the audience know that the Bureau goes WAY back. When David asks why man can’t just have free will, Thompson explains that the Bureau brought man from hunting and gathering to the height of the Roman Empire, and when left to their own devices, mankind gave the world the Dark Ages. When given another chance after 600 years in 1910, man responded with World War I, the Depression, Fascism, the Holocaust, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Bureau was done letting mankind freestyle.
From here, the movie does ramp up towards a climactic ending. David finds out that if he continues to pursue Elise, that not only do his dreams as a politician die, but so do hers as a dancer. A lot must be sacrificed…is it worth it?
Overall, I remember enjoying this movie the first time in theaters seeing it with Nicolette. This time, while decently entertaining, I had a hard time remembering what I liked about it so much. Damon and Blunt are incredibly likable and definitely play off one-another well, and there are some good performances by Mackie and Mad Men’s John Slattery, but ultimately I found myself very “meh” on it this time around.
- After seeing this movie, Nicolette said something along the lines that it was the “best movie she’d ever seen” or that it was the “best movie of all-time”. I kid you not. Screw you, Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, Godfather, Shawshank Redemption….I could go on…give Nicolette (at least at the time, she recognizes the that is was basically just the high of seeing the ending now) The Adjustment Bureau!
- The trailers on this DVD shown before the film were cringe-worthy…Blue Crush 2 and Bring It On The Musical. Wow.
Verdict: I don’t recall what I would’ve rated it walking out of the theater (5 stars for Nic, obviously), but today it’s 3 out of 5 for me. It’s our first purge. Adios!
Next: A Few Good Men