Written & Directed by George Nolfi
Academy Award winner Matt Damon has become a bankable star ever since he hit it big with his role in the Jason Bourne series as the title character. One of his collaborators in that series has been George Nolfi, who helped write the screenplay for “Bourne Ultimatum”. But now Nolfi is sitting in the director’s chair, for the first time, to direct Damon in the new romantic thriller, “The Adjustment Bureau”.
David Norris (Damon) is a popular, young New York politician. He became the youngest ever elected to the House of Representatives at 24 and is now seeking New York’s U.S. Senate seat. But when he loses after a story breaks about his wreckless behavior, Norris has a chance encounter with an interesting woman, followed by a not so chance encounter with some interesting men. Elise (Emily Blunt) is a dancer who inspires Norris to deliver a sensational concession speech on election night, only to run off without leaving him her phone number. But when he runs into her on the bus months later, mysterious men apprehend him. These men identify themselves as members of the “Adjustment Bureau”, set to make sure the plan of “The Chairman” is carried out. That plan calls for David and Elise to never meet again, despite their obvious connection. So David decides to test his fate and pursue Elise, beginning a showdown between everybody involved.
Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are great as the couple in question. The two have great on screen chemistry and, even though their relationship is never given the time it really needs to develop on screen, they are convincing enough to buy that they are in love. On the other hand, the ensemble that is the “Adjustment Bureau” is not as great. Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) is fine as Harry, the one man willing to help David and Elise, but the performances from John Slattery and Terence Stamp are either the worst of the year, or the most genius commentary on the idea of men who adjust our lives in accordance with a master plan.
The film is not shy about its obvious correlation to religion, faith and the ideas of free will, chance, and destiny. As such, writer/director George Nolfi raises some very interesting questions which act as great conversation fodder for after the film. The strength of the film is in the characters drive to tempt fate and possibly bend the path of their future. No real conclusion is made by the filmmakers as to what path life takes. It settles, instead, to reveal that perhaps chance, fate, and free will are all intricately intertwined to make life the unpredictable mess it sometimes is.
What is most surprising about the film is that it is much less action and much more romance than the trailer would have ever led on to. So for moviegoers expecting something like the Bourne series, or even something like “Inception”, be ready to be surprised by “The Adjustment Bureau”, which is much more romance and exposition driven. The screenplay does not match the sleek photography or costume design, but it is a fair debut effort by first time director Nolfi. Perhaps the first “summer movie”, “The Adjustment Bureau” does not flounder, but it also does not wow.