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The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
Director: George Nolfi

review by Mike Philbin

The marketing guys for The Adjustment Bureau would like you to remember the slogan, 'Bourne meets Inception' but they're wrong. This film is nothing like either of those films. But then it sort of is, but not as we might like it to be. Would you take the same bus into work for three years in the hope that you'd meet the woman of your dreams whose phone number you 'lost'? That's what senatorial candidate David Norris (Matt Damon) does, trying to find Elise (Emily Blunt) a woman he met 'by chance' in the men's room of the Waldorf Hotel.

Remember Warner Bros' Pepé Le Pew - that little French black and white skunk-lothario that keeps confusing white-striped black cats with his mates? Remember the way he used to bound along effortlessly while his prey scurried and scrambled in abject panic; Pepé Le Pew is exactly like the members of the Adjustment Bureau (TAB). Yeah, sounds exactly like just another three-letter need to know agency, doesn't it?

Calling 'the man upstairs' the Chairman certainly has a corporate allusion, n'est-ce pas? But there's also a Maoist China angle to that name that this reviewer finds sinister, in the extreme. It would have been better to use the tagline, "Just the right amount of scuffing," as this film's about those 'little touches' that make a world of difference to global governance. This film comes from a long line of philosophical exercises along the lines of The Butterfly Effect, Dark City, and weirdly something like Sleepless In Seattle, Michael, or (absurdly) Eagle Eye.

I really like the script of this film, it's a success in the same way that the script of Blade Runner (while being an amazing exposition of genetic chemistry) had basically nothing to do with the content of the original Philip K. Dick story but added an extra-special dimension to the characters and their specific motivations. Same with this script, there's a great spark of electricity between the Elise and Norris characters, a proper charm.

"We followed protocol to the letter," and still these dumb-ass pen-pushers don't know what they're doing. They're like the covert agents in the global three-letter agencies doing what they're told for the (so called) greater good. It's very strange that what used to be considered sci-fi appears to have caught up with the once-radical ideas of the author of the original story by Philip K. Dick. Why does water protect humans from the 'angels' or 'case officers' as they call themselves? "I don't know; it's above my pay grade."

Remember, or rather let's not forget, that the phones were down on both 9-11 New York, and 7-7 London. And I've always wondered about the real reason behind the 'premature announcement' of the collapse of the World Trade Centre building 20 minutes early on the BBC World Service. Am I suggesting these Adjustment agents had a hand in that? Am I suggesting that both 9-11 and 7-7 were occasions when benevolent beings used terror to expose the corruption the big bad corporate world? Who cares what I think, I'm just a reviewer of entertainments.

"You don't know why I'm not supposed to be with her, do you?" asks Norris of his shadowy corporate pursuers, and that's the crux of this intriguing narrative. Later on, you learn about the doors, and the hats. "I don't care what you put in my way, I'm not giving up" - now that's narrative drive.

Blunt and Damon totally own this movie in their own special individual ways. In fact, I would have given this film a five out of five score if it wasn't for the clumsy comment about the Roman Empire being a good thing. I mean, Jesus! "We tried to reason with you."

The Adjustment Bureau




The Adjustment Bureau poster



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