DVD Review: The Adjustment Bureau

Review By: Boo Allen

Poor Matt Damon. He is so confused. He has a dilemma: follow his dreams and passions and end up with the love of his life—Emily Blunt no less, or, he can follow the proscribed “plan,” the future laid out for him by a vaguely defined group of fixers known as “The Adjustment Bureau.” If David Norris (Damon) follows the orders laid out in writer-director George Nolfi’s script based on a feverish plot from science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick (“Blade Runner,” “Minority Report”), he will demonstrate his lack of free will, a conflict that seems to be at the center of this overly orchestrated examination of free will versus determinism. “The Adjustment Bureau” may not take its place at the top of the pantheon of films based on Philip K. Dick’s oeuvre, but director Nofti does deliver a frenzied, fast-paced allegory pumped with ambivalence. He sets up the basic conflict and then lets his two main puppets twist and turn, while slowly revealing who pulls the puppet strings. In the bargain, he may also unintentionally contribute to laughable conspiracy theories about mysterious events. Not surprising considering its source, “Bureau” rests on a fantastical premise—everything has already been laid out, including the fate of the world and everyone in it. The few times humans have been left alone resulted in world wars, environmental disasters, the Holocaust, and so on. So, The Bureau, a group of men wearing fedoras, goes around, stopping time, and making “adjustments,” small nudges here and there to make sure everything goes according to a preconceived plan. Some may see them as guardian angels. When David Norris loses a senatorial election, he randomly meets and falls for Elise (Blunt). But that is an accident because it interferes with the Bureau’s greater aim of eventually thrusting Norris into further electoral success, thereby paving the way for him to save the world. But the perpetually pop-eyed Norris wants it all, a decision that thrusts him and Elise into an on-again, off-again romance to complement the other intrigue. The quandary allows Nolfi to orchestrate his set-shifting special effects and to free his supporting cast of Bureau workers (John Slattery, Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp) to scurry around Brooklyn and Manhattan opening doors and looking frenzied. Being Hollywood, however, the film succumbs to an anti-Philip K. Dick ending, one drenched in schmaltz and treacle. But it was probably planned that way all along.

Rated PG-13, 107 minutes.

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