The Adjustment Bureau is a romantic thriller with a sci-fi/fantasy premise. The world is directed by an organization of bureaucratic nerds in small brim fedoras who keep things going “on plan.” It’s for our own good – when they step back, things like WWII and the Cuban Missile Crisis happen.
Matt Damon plays Norris, a politician on the fast track to the White House whose path through life needs a bit of adjustment now and then – he’s too impulsive. If he stays on track, he can save the world, maybe. He meets Elise (Emily Blunt) another impulsive type and they fall for one another – that’s not in the plan…or is it?
In the original short story by Phillip Dick, Damon’s character was a real estate salesman, but this is Hollywood. That would have fit better with the satirical edge to the premise, the black humor inherent in learning that our ‘free will’, all our strivings, are guided by dull men (all men) in charcoal grey suits who look like they missed the 7:20 from Long Island, c. 1964. If it weren’t for Ms. Blunt, the movie would fall flat: she’s wonderfully sexy, and she and Damon make a great pair of romantic seekers in the world that isn’t what it seems.
A lot of the effects are clever, I love the emphasis on hats – they are an essential element in the Adjusters’ uniform – and many scenes are in grand NYC office spaces that I’ve always found a bit ominous and oppressive – glad to know it isn’t just me and my paranoia! Terrence Stamp is marvelous as Satan figure known as “The Hammer.” He’s a bit unsubtle in his adjustments.
Which brings up the Big Questions: God, predestination, fate, free will, etc. These are just mentioned, but a lot of reviewers seem to feel that this is what the movie is about – I think it’s just the device that gets it all going, nothing more. The entire idea of the story is preposterous on the character level. After being informed of The Truth, and warned that if he tells anyone, his brain will be “reset,” i.e. erased, Norris goes on with his life. No depression, no strange changes in behavior, no suicidal thoughts? It’s the equivalent of being abducted by aliens, and he just accepts it and carries on. Not likely. Nor does he ask much – never inquires, “Just what is the plan?”
The director said that “The film asks questions – that’s what art is supposed to do.” Leaving aside the fact that for most of human history, asking questions is pretty much the last thing art was supposed to do, the characters in this film ask remarkably few.
Anyway, it was a lot of fun to watch.