In a nutshell: Watchable sure, but could have been so much better.
Popcorn rating: 3/5
Loosely based on a Philip K Dick short story, The Adjustment Bureau has at its heart one of those brilliant ideas that you’d like to pretend was yours – albeit, you just hadn’t thought of it yet. It’s so simple, it’s great. Give people free will and they mess up – it was free will which led to all those wars and depressions and stuff. So, with people no longer trusted to have free will, the Man Upstairs has created the Adjustment Bureau – a secret organisation working undercover to keep everyone on their predestined paths in life, meeting the right person, taking the right job, making the right decision. Because if we don’t do as we should, who knows where we could end up.
Hence, when up and coming congressional candidate David Morris (Matt Damon, in the the kind of role he could play in his sleep ) falls in love with the wrong woman, namely dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), the Adjustment Bureau must step in to ensure they never meet again. But will true love win out against the unseen bureaucracy?
It’s no surprise that the best thing about The Adjustment Bureau are the agents, looking as if they have stepped straight out of Mad Men. While not quite as chilling as they might be (and a tad short on full explanations), the agents are intriguing and surprisingly believable, considering. Terence Stamp as the “hammer” Thompson, in particular, is obviously enjoying himself and there are some lovely elements – the fedoras, the books and their destiny diagrams, the network of doorways across the city. Splendid.
And, with Damon and Blunt providing a real onscreen rapport, what could go wrong? Well, there’s just one hitch, and it is a biggie. Exactly why does the Bureau go to so much effort and time and risk to – let’s face it – break up a couple? It’s never made fully clear, sure there a reason briefly mentioned but it all seems just a little flaky, as if the writers just tacked it on at the end.
The Adjustment Bureau is an interesting film but you can’t help thinking that there is a better, more thought provoking thriller hiding somewhere underneath – if only it had the courage of its convictions.