The Adjustment Bureau is a clever, stylish, thoroughly entertaining genre movie made for adults that never once insults your intelligence. These things are rarer then dodos at this point. Savor it.
It also joins the rarified company of Philip K. Dick adaptations that actually treat his work as though it is something that deserves to be adapted rather then scorned. It might not see fit to actual adapt the story (A Scanner Darkly thus remaining the only one to do so with fidelity). But it at least seems to have been made by people who have read the original story and hold it in something other then contempt. If nothing else the film’s tone and imagery of men in suits and riot masks pouring in through the doors and windows, jibes happily with Dick’s ideas of “The Divine Invasion”.
The Adjustment Bureau follows Matt Damon as a would be senator who falls for a free spirited dancer. The universe decides that it doesn’t like this and thus the adjustment bureau is called in. A panel of “angels” in three piece suits and fedoras in place of halos who personify Dick’s “just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean their not after you” philosophy. Lose your keys? Hit every red light on your way into work? That’s the Bureau. It’s a great concept to play with, and half the fun of the film is watching them turn the entire city into a giant Rube Goldberg contraption set against him (the film recalls the mall sequence in Minority Report stretched to feature length).
The film is matter of factly visually striking. I’d be at a loss to name any “big” special effects moment. Nothing so spectacular as say the recalibration of the city in Dark City. It’s all very simple and there’s very little here that a bright student could not do with access to a green screen and a crack editor. Yet it is so much more effective in it’s simplicity then any amount of CGI flash could be. Not to over hype but the effects in The Adjustment Bureau are damn near photo realistic and thus every time the impossible happens the mind recoils.
The film’s casting is downright immaculate. Someone needs to be thanking their lucky stars that Damon and Emily Blunt had such instant chemistry. One of the surprising narrative moves the film makes is the sheer length of time the story takes place over (at the very least five years) it’s an effective storytelling choice but only because in the brief scenes that Damon and Blunt get together they sell their attraction completely.
Also delivering strong and crucial work are Anthony Mackie, John Slattery and Terrence Stamp as the key members of The Bureau. All three making the wise decision to play things low key. Slattery playing things so wryly bemused that he’s practically a divinely empowered Roger Sterling (shudder at the thought) and Stamp delivering portentous exposition with such effortless authority that I could almost believe that a real life Adjustment Bureau guided him to the role. The real stroke of genius in the execution is not allowing a single moment of malignancy to creep into any aspect of their performance. The Bureau aren’t a bunch of glowering bad guys. They genuinely do have humanity’s best interest at heart. They’re professionals doing a job and they’re just getting a bit exasperated that these two arrogant little humans refuse to stick to the plan. Ingeniously The Bureau is filled with as much back biting and buck passing as any bureaucracy or corporate institution.
The Adjustment Bureau is a film made by and for grown ups that cares both about it’s big ideas and it’s human core. It’s well worth your time.