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The Adjustment Bureau Movie Review 3-13-11

Updated on June 24, 2014
The Adjustment Bureau
The Adjustment Bureau
David and Elise meet in the mens room
David and Elise meet in the mens room
Emily Blunt as Elise Sellas
Emily Blunt as Elise Sellas
Terence Stamp as the icy, sinister Thompson
Terence Stamp as the icy, sinister Thompson
Michael Kelly as Charlie Traynor
Michael Kelly as Charlie Traynor
Elliot Spitzer as Eliot Spitzer
Elliot Spitzer as Eliot Spitzer
Amthony Mackie as Harry Mitchell
Amthony Mackie as Harry Mitchell
Fleeing from the Adjustment Bureau
Fleeing from the Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau--Fate, Chance, Free Will?

Philip K. Dick fans won't see much resemblance between the movie and Dick's 19-page story entitled Adjustment Team which amounts to little more than a sketch of one of Dick's paranoid fantasies about menacing forces or people controlling the world.

George Nolfi who wrote the script and directed the movie turned Dick's bare bones short story into a Hollywood romantic science fiction fantasy, improving greatly on P.K. Dick's undistinguished little story. In the short story the main character was a married real estate salesman, and in the movie the protagonist is a handsome bachelor, David Norris, played by Matt Damon, was a Kennedyesque Senate candidate who many considered a potential President.

The movie begins with Congressman David Norris losing his race for the Senate thanks to Rupert Murdoch's NY Post digging up an old photo of Norris mooning a college reunion group and publishing it on the front page a couple of days before the election. N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, James Carville, Mary Matalin, Wolf Blitzer, Stephen Colbert and others played themselves in bit parts discussing the election. Damon's handler, Charlie Traynor, who some reviewers pointed out is a dead ringer for Eliot Spitzer, is firmly under control of The Adjustment Bureau.

As Damon is practicing his concession speech in a deserted mahogany paneled Waldorf Astoria men's room, who comes out of one of the stalls but the Emily Blunt character, Elise Sellas, who is a talented, rising ballet star. She explains to Damon that she was hiding from the building security men who were chasing her for crashing a big wedding. Was this a chance meeting or part of "the plan?" Damon falls for the ravishing Blunt instantly, but she keeps her distance and refuses to see him again.

Shortly after the election Damon encounters the Adjustment Team led by Richardson, a sinister character played perfectly by John Slattery. Two others on the adjustment team figure significantly in the plot--Thompson an even more sinister character who was Thompson's boss, played by Terence Stamp and Anthony Mackie who retained certain human, empathetic, mind-of-his-own qualities despite being a member of the Adjustment Bureau.

The purpose of the Adjustment Bureau is to assure the implementation of the "Chairman's Plan" which Thompson explains is benign and intended, after two world wars, other conflicts and the spread of nuclear weapons, to prevent humans from destroying the world and themselves with it, Adherence to the "Plan" requires secret control of key people's actions including Matt Damon's candidacy for the Senate and ultimately for the presidency of the U.S. Control of these events requires interventions from time to time and adjustments to the "Plan" which were accomplished by "re-setting" key people such as David Norris to assure that they stay on track in accordance with the "Chairman's Plan." You can make up your own mind whether the "Chairman" is fate, God, your favorite political party, David Koch, George Soros or merely one of P.K. Dick's fearful fantasies. Clue: the "Chairman" doesn't appear in the movie, but he works out of GE's headquarters in 30 Rock.

The "Plan" originally called for Damon to meet and marry the beautiful Elise Sellas, but after Damon fell for Sellas and she for him the "plan" was changed by the Chairman, and the Adjustment Bureau implemented steps to drive David and Elise apart and for her to marry the choreographer of her ballet. Damon initially accepts Thompson's reasoning for this and breaks off his relationship with Elise, but eventually, exercising his free will, he decides to pursue Elise again. The Anthony Mackie character risks his own life helping Damon elude the Adjustment Bureau goons in his effort to prevent Elise's wedding to her ballet choreographer and marry her himself. Does he succeed in his battle with time and the Adjustment Bureau? You'll have to see the movie for the answer.

Damon does his usual competent job in the lead, and Emily Blunt was dazzling as the female romantic lead. John Slattery and Terence Stamp were convincingly sinister as the two Adjustment Bureau heavies. Anthony Mackie's performance as the thoughtful empathetic Bureau member who represented man's capacity to exercise free will and take fate into his own hands was perfect as well. The movie was fast-paced and provided many beautiful shots in and around New York City. It held my attention, but I'm not surprised it didn't rate any academy award nominations. It didn't quite measure up to several of the ten movies based on P.K.Dick's paranoid sci-fi novels and stories, e.g. Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall.

The movie is rated PG13.


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    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Thanks, Henry for your astute comment.

    • profile image

      Henry R 

      8 years ago

      This is Barney's Version meets Inception: Guy instantly recognizes girl as his soulmate, however she is totally out of reach, but guy pursues her despite all odds, outside sinister forces mess with his mind and thrown insurmountable obstacles in his path, Guy won't give up no matter what and puts forth a Herculean effort and wins girl, making the impossible seem merely improbable. Of course in both cases the girl is sexy, artsy, willful, and not easily won over until she sees that the guy will go to any and all ends to win her. Naturally they eventually disappear into the sunset when the Chairman recognizes that they are meant for each other and changes the PLAN to one where they will live happily together ever after. However, we are left to wonder how the Cuban missile crisis will turn out and if David will eventually get caught with Marilyn Monroe and loose Elise.


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