David Norris (Matt Damon) is the youngest ever Congressman, about to blow a Senate seat through an immature indiscretion. Despite an electrifying concession speech, his thoughts are entirely taken up with the chance meeting in a wash room with British dancer Elyse (Emily Blunt), a meeting, it turns out, that is not in The Plan, enacted by the Adjustment Bureau’s men in hats…
If you know the great man’s works, the description “light-hearted Philip K Dick romantic thriller” might be enough to deter you. Otherwise this jaunty, futurist conspiracy thriller, freely adapted by Bourne screenwriter George Nolfi, might be just your thing. Although, ‘freely adapted’ is both a strength and a weakness.
Bradshaw of the Guardian calls it “The Manchurian Candidate written by Charlie Kaufman,” to explain the clash of paranoia and absurdity in a movie played entirely straight but with frequent comic touches and light dialogue. Less of an action picture than the trailer portrays, the movie frequently sits Damon down (literally) to consider its’ themes of love, free will and fate.
There is unforced romantic chemistry between the two leads, but Philip K Dick would never have written anything this sweet, this light or this silly in the translation from the page to the screen. There are conflicting nods to so many other movies either in tone (Michael Powell’s A Matter Of Life and Death, Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, Hitchcock’s North By North-West) or style (Paycheck, The Matrix, Brazil), that sometimes this movie seems to forget what it is.
It is all-too quickly revealed just who the Adjustment Bureau staff are. We want the controlled menace of the Agents from the Matrix, what we get are fine comic turns from John Slattery and Anthony Mackie. In the face of Damon’s resistance to his ‘destiny,’ his case is pushed ‘upstairs’ to the venerable Terrence Stamp, who at this stage of his career, has all the gravitas, but can’t really care about the silly stuff he’s asked to prop up. Even here, the movie lacks Dick’s biting cynicism.
Damon is a good choice for the straight-up, honest, charismatic young politico with his integrity intact. Not the least Bourne-like, he has to think and run, not fight, so this is mostly a chase movie with some existential, quasi-religious overtones. Damon examined it better himself in Kevin Smith’s angelic-farce Dogma.
We get to the last act, essentially a heist ‘break-in’ movie; we get the ‘rules’ to the Adjustment Bureau’s hats and doors just to make the running that much harder, but no time for any set-backs to invoke them.
That said, New York never looked finer, a star in every frame. The chases are well executed and the performances never flag. Powell would have applauded the feel-good ending, even if Philip K Dick would have thrown his pop-corn at the screen. RC
Production year: 2011
Running Time: 1 hr. 39 min.
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Romance
Director By: George Nolfi
Writer By: George Nolfi
Released: Mar 4, 2011
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, John Slattery, Michael Kelly, Terence Stamp, Anthony Mackie