I never saw screenwriter George Nolfi’s directorial debut at the cinema. I remember catching it for the first time on TV and being impressed with it. It rode in on the coat tails of Christopher Nolan’s Inception as part of a trio of very clever ‘reality bending films’ that all appeared quite close together. The other links in that chain being Rian Johnson’s Looper (which also features Emily Blunt) and Duncan Jones’ Source Code.
The Adjustment Bureau is the simplest of those I’ve mentioned. At it’s heart, it’s a love story with a bit of fantasy/science fiction thrown in to serve as an antagonist conspiring to keep the leads apart.
Matt Damon, who knew Nolfi presumably from their work together on The Bourne Ultimatum, and Emily Blunt make an odd pairing at first glance but their chemistry on screen is wonderful and you can’t help rooting for them.
They are destined to be together, or were at one point before ‘the plan’ got changed. That’s where the fantasy bit comes into play. ‘The plan’ is something put in place by The Chairman, who we never meet (more on that later) but may or may not represent God.
Working for the chairman are an organisation of hat-wearing agents who make small adjustments to our paths so that we all stay in line with our destinies, whatever they may be. The two lovers, Davis and Elise, keep going off-piste in their desire to be together. The Adjustment Bureau’s efforts to keep them apart get more and more desperate, to the point of bring in a very well-dressed Terence Stamp to sort things out.
Despite some plot holes, The Adjustment Bureau is a lot of fun to watch, and Damon and Blunt, as I said, are a very engaging on screen couple. This is more a romance than it is a science fiction film and, by focussing on that and keeping the pace quite brisk, it really does well.
Anthony Mackie is good value as a ‘guardian angel’ and there are some clever special effects involving doors that can be used to move around the city but really it all comes down to the love story in the middle of it all. I’m a sucker for a good love story.
I dug out a couple of fun bits of trivia from IMDb. Firstly, according to Emily Blunt, filming took ages at the Statue of Liberty because onlookers continually called out Matt Damon’s name. Not doing it in admiration, but in the style of his puppet representation from 2004’s Team America: World Police.
Secondly, there is the whole final scene which was completely reshot after the production company raised objections. In the scene, David and Elise meet The Chairman (who is possibly God). Nolfi shot the scene using Oscar nominated Iranian-born actress Shohreh Aghdashloo.
Apparently the film’s distributors were not happy with a woman who was raised a Muslim playing God in their movie. Shame!
Lastly, Daniel Dae Kim (Lost, Angel) also shot some scenes as a member of the Bureau, but these ended up on the cutting room floor.
So, in conclusion, a decent, unassuming film that is fun to watch, has charismatic leads, doesn’t outstay its welcome and might just have been better if they’d been a bit more daring.
Thanks for reading,
You can check out my other random musings on a couple of films by clicking the links below.