Dialogue Review – The Adjustment Bureau
Brandi Sperry: It’s finally March. The time of year when movie lovers start to wonder if they can begin to feel hopeful about new releases again. Among this weekend’s offerings is the sci-fi-ish/romancey/thriller-type-thing The Adjustment Bureau. Will Matt Damon and Emily Blunt help moviegoers see some light?
Allen Almachar: The film stars Matt Damon as David Norris, an up-and-coming hot shot New York politician, looking to win a seat on the U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, Norris has also had a history of trouble with the law and possessing a “party animal” persona during his youth. This ends up being one of his major setbacks when trying to win the election he is currently a part of. On election day, with the results not looking very good, Norris decides to sneak away for a private moment in the men’s bathroom, only to run into party crasher Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt). To say that the “sparks fly” between the two immediately is putting it mildy, to say the least.
Brandi: Luckily, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have great chemistry, and that sells the crazy instant attraction between the two. But, even though David thinks he may have just met the girl of his dreams, he quickly comes up against quite an obstacle: fate—yep, fate itself—conspires to keep them apart. And fate works through the men of an agency called the Adjustment Bureau.
Allen: Whether these “men” of the Adjustment Bureau are really angels working for God is really up to debate. What’s important is that they have a plan set for David and Elise (literally, with a map showing the paths and everything). David is meant to go on and become successful in politics, while Elise is destined to become a world famous ballet dancer. However, David cannot deny the almost supernatural love he has for her, and she for him, and he attempts to do the near impossible: counteract his own laid out plan and fight to be with Elise. Will choice overcome fate?
Brandi: One thing I appreciated about the film is that it didn’t waste too much time getting to the necessary place, where David is aware that these Bureau men (led by John Slattery of Mad Men fame, in all his wry, silver-haired glory) are messing with him, doesn’t doubt the situation, and chooses to face it head on. David knows that they’ve arranged to keep Elise and him apart, as for some reason the two being together will mess with destiny; he knows he’s been forbidden to look for her, but he spends every day looking for her anyway. And when he finally finds her, three years later: cue some awesome chase scenes.
Allen: You mentioned this before, but I feel the key factor of the film was the chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. Their interactions felt very real to me, and when they flirted, it seemed like they really enjoyed each other’s company. With that established, we can buy in to the idea of David wanting to literally break fate itself by being with Elise. The chase scenes (and there are a lot of them) are actually pretty enjoyable, albeit something we’ve seen before. I particularly enjoyed John Slattery in all his funny awesomeness, as his character complains about chasing David like a kennel employee chasing after a runaway puppy.
How did you feel about the logic of the Adjustment Bureau? This was one of the weaker points of the film to me. There are gaping holes in the “rules” of their world. If the very idea of someone breaking what they’re supposed to do is already guessed by the Adjustment Bureau, shouldn’t that be a part of what they’re supposed to do anyway? If the Adjustment Bureau can read the thoughts of a character, shouldn’t what that person decides to do not come as a surprise to them? If a person can excuse the implausibility of these questions and just focus on the action, I think they’ll have a good time.
Brandi: This might be the first film where I “get” Emily Blunt. This is a decent role; Elise is bold and funny in ways movie objects of desire don’t always get to be. But Blunt pulls something extra out—an additional level of sparkling mischief that really worked for me. Combined with Damon’s ease at playing the dashing hero, they anchor the film.
And Damon does dash, literally, as he’s chased by these mysterious men. Though you’re right to say that, in general, these are chase scenes like what we’ve seen before—stylish footraces through crowded streets, with pumping music in the background—these scenes are brighter and lighter than, say, Damon’s Bourne adventures. I found them very entertaining.
As for the logic of the Adjustment Bureau…I tried not to dwell. There are a good number of holes, for sure. But when you’re dealing with a set-up that is clearly going for the style factor more than anything (for example, there seem to be no female adjusters, and as far as I can tell it’s only because men look better in trenches and fedoras), you can choose whether to just let go and enjoy the ride. And I did.
Allen: I thought the special effects were subtle, yet impressive. I liked how, when someone wore a fedora of the Bureau agents, they would be able to go through doors to other places in the city. This makes the chase scenes really exciting once David grabs a hold of a fedora himself. First we’re in an alleyway, then inside of a museum, to a back room in Yankee Stadium, to the Statute of Liberty. I thought it was really fun and exciting to see where they would end up next.
I think if anyone were to ask what this film was like, I would say that it is a combination of Dark City and The Matrix, but not as heavy on the intense philosophy. There is an air of light=heartedness here, mixed with romance and a bit of humor.
Brandi: Definitely the sense of fun and the smooth visual transitions as they popped up around the city were highlights during the chase sequences. The director and cinematographer used the New York setting and the look of the iconic locations to great advantage. I can see what you are saying about mixing elements of Dark City and The Matrix, but the breeziness of this film lessens those comparisons for me. It’s not about a deep, mind-blowing revelation; it’s just about a neat, fantastical set-up and some endearing characters running around in that world. And that worked for me.
Allen: In a way, it’s an old school kind of a film. When talking about the romance and breeziness of it while also being an action thriller, I could totally see a James Stewart or Cary Grant playing a role like this back in their heyday. I guess that’s just the “wish things were like how they used to be” part of me talking.
In the end, I think people will come away from this film feeling satisfied. They’ll get exactly what they paid for, if not a little bit more.
Brandi: I like that description; this film does feel old school, like a throwback to simpler times. It’s solid, balanced and pleasant. It’s clever without being cloying. Maybe it’s not anything groundbreaking, but it was better than what I expected from the previews, and something I’m sure I’ll watch again and like just as much a second time.