Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Anthony Ruivivar, Michael Kelly, Terence Stamp
Directed by George Nolfi
Expectations: Super low. I thought the trailer was laughable, but others talked me into seeing it.
For most people I imagine this will satisfy and delight, but for me, a hardened sci-fi nerd with a distinct love for Philip K. Dick, it didn’t cut it. There’s very little in the film that feels even remotely connected to an idea Dick may have had, and that is much too great of a transgression to forgive in my book. When dealing with one of the greatest minds of classic sci-fi, you’d think he’d get more respect from Hollywood, but once again his story is co-opted into mainstream drivel for the masses. At least this time around it is successful in translating itself into a moneymaking mainstream film, which, oddly enough, might do some good for Dick’s name.
Matt Damon is a politician who by chance meets a lovely young lady in the men’s room while preparing his speech for the night. They hit it off well, so Damon is overjoyed when he happens to run into her again on a city bus. Unknown to him though, there are forces at work that dropped the ball, and he should have never stepped onto that bus. The trailer and the filmmakers would like you to believe that what follows this event is a taut sci-fi thriller, but don’t be fooled, as there is more downtime than exciting sequences. When it does get somewhat exciting, during the requisite Dick chase scenes, the villains are so lackadaisical in their pursuit that Damon and Blunt have time to conduct a heart-to-heart at the Statue of Liberty mid-chase.
The film doesn’t even follow its own logic either. In the first scene where agents travel through doors, they seem to move through whatever door they want and come out of any other door they’d like. The agent chases Damon through his office building by going through the nearest door and coming out the door in front of Damon. Then later in the film, we’re told the doors are all static and each door connects to another specific door. So that office must have been wired to be a maze of doors specifically built to fuck with people, because there would be no legitimate reason to hard-wire the doors like that otherwise. Hmm, it ain’t adding up. On top of this, as the supposed stakes are raised and the agents after Damon get progressively more annoyed and powerful, they also get equally more laid back and stupid. At any point during the “grand” final chase, couldn’t one of them raise a sidewalk to trip them up, like they did earlier in the film? Or perhaps crash a car to impede their path, again as they did earlier in the film?
The Adjustment Bureau‘s love story is also of a dubious quality. It can easily be seen as a metaphor for an abusive relationship, but yet the audience is expected to eat it up as a touching tale of a dude doing anything for his love. The life and feelings of Emily Blunt’s character are completely sidelined and inconsequential to the plot and to Damon. They have a great meeting, but Damon can’t connect with her due to unforeseen circumstances. When he meets her again three years later, he asks for forgiveness and he receives it. The same cycle happens a few more times throughout the film, with each escalating fault of Damon’s being forgiven away by Blunt because she is apparently desperate for his love and despite having another more dependable man, she wants the one that keeps hurting her. The movie is supposed to end happily, but all I could think of was how Damon had done nothing to prove himself. What happens when they finally sit down together, unheeded by the divergent plan, and realize they don’t have much to talk about? This love story is the heart of the movie, and for my money, it is the weakest part of the experience. It is also categorically opposed to Philip K. Dick’s style, and therefore personally offends me as a Phil Dick fan as well.
Despite all of my issues, The Adjustment Bureau isn’t truly an awful movie. It’s missing a lot of the tension it seems to think it has, not to mention it’s rather boring and illogical, but it is entirely watchable. It is a true representation of sci-fi for the masses; it doesn’t hold up at all under close scrutiny, but most people won’t care about that as long as there’s a love story with a happy ending. Oh and I’d also rather not have my sci-fi co-opted into a theological motif, which is somewhat ironic given Dick’s late period religious tinged sci-fi that, from the little of it I’ve read, is fantastic.