The Adjustment Bureau: A Creative Examination Of Free Will

4 03 2011

Based on the short story “Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. Here’s the breakdown:

David Norris (Damon) has a promising political career. Elise Sellas (Blunt) has a promising dance career. After a chance meeting leads to a budding romance, David and Elise find themselves  up against a mysterious organization, bent on keeping them apart.

The Monkey: Not surprisingly, Damon delivers a heart-felt and grounded performance. His David has all the charisma needed for a politician, along with all the charm needed for a leading man. Blunt has always impressed, but her turn as dancer Elise proves she has a continually expansive range. She’s light-hearted, almost flippant in her portrayal, giving it an ultra-natural and organic feel, putting the audience instantly at ease and helping anchor the otherwise otherworldly story to concrete human emotions.

The chemistry between Blunt and Damon was palpable, lending a considerable amount of weight to the central love story.

The overall themes of destiny, fate and free-will were handled effectively and in a rather original way. The world of the Adjustment Bureau, with their pathways, mysterious fedoras, destiny-filled notebooks and inhuman powers was a creative manifestation of the abstract concepts explored in the film. The fact that the metaphor was carried through without coming off incredibly cheesy was a testament to the film’s success.

The Weasel: Damon and Blunt were convincing enough, but the story didn’t help sell their relationship. There were too few scenes of the two together, not giving enough evidence for the audience to believe this seemingly fleeting fling could last over the course of several years.

While the mechanics of the Adjustment Bureau’s world were explained well enough, their motivations were less explicit. Harry (Anthony Mackie), David’s “controller,” decides to lend him a hand in his quest for Elise…but why? The free will of the controllers themselves opened up a whole new level of complexity that the movie was not prepared to explore. Similarly, by implying that “The Chairman” was somehow “god” and the “controllers” were possible versions of “angels,” The Adjustment Bureau ventured beyond metaphysical and philosophical territory, into the much murkier waters of religion – and none too successfully.

The movie set out to pit the protagonists against the ultimate obstacle: fate. However, when all was said and done, there was little real effort or sacrifice in order to get what they wanted. All throughout the film it was made clear that in order to be together, David and Elise would have to give up their promising careers. It’s unclear if this was actually the case. It would have made for a much more compelling and emotional story if the plot had explored this area of sacrifice, giving it more of an O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi feel to it.

A well-acted movie with a well-executed, thought-provoking premise. Unfortunately, the high stakes were never fully realized in the end.

3.5 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Did the ending come a bit too easily? Do you think Damon and Blunt had good onscreen chemistry? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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4 responses

4 03 2011
Cassandra Okamoto

Told Eric I wanted to go see this tonight and he said, “wait, another movie of Matt Damon being chased?!” ha ha ha so I think your reviews inspired me to go see Rango, sounds so good! 🙂

4 03 2011
Dustin

LOL, Matt Damon DOES like to get chased in his movies 🙂 ‘Rango’ was great – let me know what you end up seeing and how you liked it! 🙂

16 03 2011
scarletsp1der

I, ironically, ended up giving AB the same score. I liked the film, but felt that, like you, their relationship wasn’t given enough attention to warrant the bond they felt with one another.

*spoiler alert* I found it difficult to buy into the amount of times she took him back, honestly, and then was willing to quickly accept the strange goings ons.

Again, my friend. a well written review!

17 03 2011
Dustin

Once again, it seems we’re on the same page! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – why are we not movie consultants? 🙂

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