The Adjustment Bureau
Director: George Nolfi
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terrence Stamp
Review: 3.5 stars (of five)
Love. For William Shakespeare, it was a many-splendored thing. For Pat Benatar, it was a battlefield. It’s more the latter in The Adjustment Bureau, as writer and first-time director George Nolfi spins a Philip K. Dick notion into a cosmic battle between the transcendent power of love and the cruel forces of fate and order.
The film’s plot hook—that grumpy working-class angels in service to a sometimes micromanaging, sometimes laissez-faire God are constantly rearranging our universe to keep us on the currently domineering deity’s master plan—is not quite as complicated as Inception‘s endless series of dream-logic rules, but it’s in the neighborhood. Fortunately, all you really need to know is that the forces of Heaven want Matt Damon not to have a romance with Emily Blunt, and Damon, having seen Emily Blunt, is not on board. So with magic notebooks, magic hats and a lot of running, they fight for their right to party. In the romantic sense.
The cast serves the film well. Damon plays a struggling local politician with his usual quiet skill, delivering both the politico’s on-demand charm and a darker, more reserved side. He also gets probably his first real clothes-off love scene ever, and it’s not emotionally scarring. Blunt is dead charming as the woman Damon randomly meets and can’t forget. She’s charming, funny and amusingly rude. Since they’ve already cast a Brit as the next Superman, she’d be a perfect call for Lois Lane. And speaking of Superman movies, the heaviest of the bad guys is Terrence Stamp, as an enforcing angel who does not take kindly to Damon’s efforts to flout the divine plan. (Filmmakers missed a chance to have Stamp intone, “Kneel before God,” which was probably the right choice).
The film will get a lot of comparisons to Inception, but apart from a cold color palate and a guy running through an unreal reality, it’s not really valid. The story here is not as convoluted or ambitious. This is a simple love-versus-crazy-odds story. Hell, you could compare the story as effectively to Vanilla Sky, where uncertain reality also resolves with a rooftop showdown. Fortunately, this movie doesn’t make its rooftop climax a half hour of lame exposition. Instead, we get thoughts on divine intention, free will, love and sacrifice, and how the best of intentions can sometimes lead to the worst outcomes.
Perhaps a better review—certainly a shorter one—of this date-night popcorn film would be the freestyle haiku my girlfriend IM’d me in four quick bursts as I was writing this: “i liked it just fine / nice little romance / nice little meditation on free will / i liked emily blunt a lot.”
What she said.