Reviews: The Adjustment Bureau

Enjoyable film

I felt like the Adjustment Bureau was a very well-balanced film, including the key elements of the story while adding something to beef it up (while doing the necessary simplification) for a modern Hollywood film. Matt Damon is a tremendous actor and Emily Blunt is a wonderful young starlet, and they both carried their parts with the right mixture of adult emotion and the carefree nature of the characters created for them. All-in-all, a very enjoyable film which should satisfy both the man looking for decent action with a sci-fi backdrop and his long-suffering wife who wants a romantic comedy.

Kept its head above water until the last scene

The film was watchable, and even had a few parts that were legitimately entertaining. The characters, while not particularly thrilling, were more interesting and relatable than typical Hollywood fare and had a modicrum of depth. The buildup to the finale had the momentum and interesting plot devices that should have been present throughout the movie, and the final chase scene was enjoyable.

Unfortunately, the ending is a hairpin Deus Ex Machina. I mean, the protagonists are literally backed into a hopeless scenario due to their own choices and the very nature of their situation, then God (who had been completely absent until that instant) shows up and fixes everything for no adequately-explored reason. The ultimate fate of the protagonists beyond the fact that they can now live out their lives goes unrevealed- they solved the immediate crisis, now go home.

In short, this film had much more potential than it managed to act upon. Watch it if you just like fancy hats, otherwise just go watch Inception. In fact, either way, just go watch Inception.

Something missing from the equation?

The themes and ideas present behind the idea of the Bureau and how they work very much scream Philip K Dick, and anyone who has read enough of his works will probably have picked up on that within the first thirty minutes of the movie, even if they didn't associate the movie immediately with the short story itself. Of course, the romance is the movie's own but the general plot will put the viewer in mind of stories like We Can Remember It For You Wholesale and Galactic Pot Healer, even though the overtones are more Christian-oriented than the Gnostic divisions that Dick usually favoured. In short, the concept and ideas behind this film are grade A science-fiction.

However, this movie, when it boils down to it, is a romance. It's a love story juxtaposed quite nicely in this fantastic multi-layered reality - with a far more optimistic world than the ones that Dick wrote about - but because of this there is no real exploration of the Administration Bureau, their other cases, their powers, what else they have done etc. etc. Don't get me wrong, the characters were well written, the acting was great, and the production values were top notch, but you have this setting behind the masquerade that is just neglected and unexplored. So despite how good this movie is, there's a feeling of just so much wasted potential.

The Deus Ex Machina ending wasn't a problem for me. I thought it was quite ironically in keeping with the idea that these angels or supernatural beings were interfering with the lives of humans, and in turn God interferes with them. It also made sense when put in the context of Thompson's speech mid-way through the movie where he explains that the Bureau kept trying to give free will over to the humans, but humanity kept fucking it up. It seemed like the endgame plan was to give humans charge over their own destiny when they could be trusted not to break the world, and the fact that these two people had managed to do something positive with their free will was an indication that humanity was moving in the right direction. So, like Harry monologued over at the end, these two humans caught a break. Apparently God is a nice guy.

In the end, enjoyable movie, even if it felt a bit like wasted potential with the premise. Definitely worth watching if you want to see another Philip K Dick short story adapted to a good movie.

Romantic Comedy or Sci-Fi Thriller?

The film felt like a romantic comedy trying really hard to be a sci-fi movie. The chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt was incredible and it made their romance believable. Their scenes were incredibly fun to watch. The actual plot, however, fell short. For me, the stakes never really felt high enough. Sure, the Adjustment Bureau agents threaten to do all sorts of horrible things, but we never actually get to see them do it. Any mystery that the Adjustment Bureau has is shattered when one of the agents explicitly states that they are essentially "angels" who like to micromanage lives. There were a few things about them that were hard to take seriously. For me, it was the fact that they got their powers from their fedoras and that if you knocked off their fedoras they would lose their abilities. The resolution to the story was anticlimactic. So with the strengths of the main actors and the weaknesses of the main plot; this movie felt like a good romance that was occasionally interrupted by some sci-fi action stuff.

Overall, it was still entertaining. There's a lot of humor in the movie, though some scenes may create unintentional laughs. It's not a bad movie to watch on a date night, but you might want to skip out if you're expecting an epic sci-fi thriller.