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The Adjustment Bureau

A 2011 movie directed by George Nolfi.

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If you're stuck in a comedy, does that make it a thriller?

  • Jul 4, 2011
Are we free to make our own choices, or is someone/something controlling are guiding them? This is an age-old question, perhaps because the human mind struggles to wrap itself around either the idea of blind chance or the immense power of free will. Surely something/someone else is involved, somehow. Loosely based on a paranoid Philip K. Dick short story, “The Adjustment Bureau” takes on this question, through the lens of a…romantic comedy?

Well, not a comedy exactly, though the plot elements here are most often found in romcoms. Matt Damon is an ambitious and rising young politician. Emily Blunt is a talented ballet/modern dancer. They are totally wrong for each other, except, of course, for that…spark, that something that makes them want to be with nobody but each other. The chemistry between Damon and Blunt is better than average; it’s pretty fun to watch them flirt. But then descend a bunch of men in fedoras, who do whatever it takes to keep them apart, because that’s the way fate would have it.

You can pretty much boil down most romantic comedies to a meet-cute, a series of apparent coincidences and twists of fate designed by the writers to keep the two leads apart for a certain period of time, and then a climactic turning point in the final twenty minutes or so when fate changes its mind and allows them to be together. This is exactly the way “The Adjustment Bureau” plays, except the writers actually appear in the film and the characters are allowed to talk to them. It’s as if Tom Hanks is able to stop in the middle of ”Sleepless in Seattle” and ask the writers why the heck they won’t let him get with Meg Ryan already.

Except that “The Adjustment Bureau” doesn’t play for laughs; I guess if you know you’re living out the plot of a romcom, it’s not funny to you. There’s a lot of rushing around, dodging the men in hats, screaming about fate, etc. It’s terribly serious business, trying to make your own decisions. It’s too bad, because the best parts of “Adjustment Bureau” are when Damon and Blunt are allowed to relax around each other. That’s hard to do when you’re being chased by supernatural beings.

Because “Bureau” purports, at least vaguely, to be about God and Fate and sovereignty and such, it has a few questions to answer that romcoms don’t. Consider a moment between Terrence Stamp (a chief Fedora) and Damon. Stamp tells Damon, in no uncertain terms, that he can marry Blunt, and they will have a good life. But he will never be President, and she will never fulfill her dream of becoming a famous dancer. This is why the Fedoras are determined to keep them apart; so that they can fulfill their potential and be Great People. Now what kind of god (or “Chairman” as the film calls him/her/it) is writing this Plan? He chooses achievement over happiness for his people, dooming them to successful careers as miserable people. Damon walks away from Blunt, afraid of killing her dreams by staying with her. But isn’t it better to be a happily married ballet teacher than a lonely, miserable prima donna? These are the kinds of questions “Adjustment Bureau” doesn’t feel at all ready to acknowledge, let alone answer.

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More The Adjustment Bureau reviews
review by . March 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
There is NO Fate But What You Make....But Do We Need Adjustment?
There’s something very familiar and yet it proves to be quite pleasing to the viewer when director/scripter George Nolfi takes on the movie adaptation of Philip Dick’s short story called “The Adjustment Team” and makes it “The Adjustment Bureau”. It has been wrongfully labeled as a sci-fi film, since it is anything but. It has strong themes of spirituality and of existentialism wrapped around romance, paranoia and mystery. Not really sure, it’s almost …
review by . March 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
It wasn’t until the middle of February in 2010 that I found my first 5/5 worthy film in Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island”, a heart pounding, gut-wrenching, brilliantly performed thriller that left my jaw on the floor and set a huge standard for the rest of the year, ending up as my #4 favorite by December. As February came and went and so did forgettable films like “I Am Number Four”, my hopes were starting to wane in general for 2011 in general when it came …
review by . July 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     Whenever I discover that a new Philip K. Dick novel is being adapted into a film, I can't help but be skeptical. Most of the time, I just sit down somewhere and let out a big sigh. This is not to say that I detest the Philip K. Dick-based films; a couple of them are very, very good. It's not particularly hard to get a basic understanding of what the writer had in mind when he wrote the story, especially in K. Dick's case. "The Adjustment Bureau" is the latest …
review by . June 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Other than the Bourne films and Good Will Hunting, I am not much of a Matt Damon fan and the trailers for this film reminded me of "The Forgotten" which was terrible. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised in how much I liked this film. It is kind of a more serious version of Looking for Mr. Jordan with a little bit of special effects thrown in. Damon is a young hotshot who seems destined to win the election for New York Senator. On the eve of the election he does something stupid which …
review by . March 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         The Adjustment Bureau, adapted from Philip K. Dick’s short story “Adjustment Team,” is the most engrossing, intelligent, and stimulating science fiction fable since Knowing, a gem that I personally believe was not given its dues. It takes one of the oldest and most unknowable of humanity’s spiritual quandaries – fate vs. free will – and applies it to a simple but brilliantly executed love story. The result is …
review by . March 03, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The Adjustment Bureau - The Two Jews On Film Think This One Needs Adjusting
Do we control our destiny or do unseen forces manipulate us? That is the question 'The Adjustment Bureau' asks. The film is based losely on a short story by Philip K. Dick and is directed and written by George Nolfi (co-writer of The Bourne Ultimatium).      Matt Damon plays ambitious New York politician, David Norris. David's just about to become the next Senator from New York, when a photo of him mooning a group of people, is brought to light. David loses the election …
review by . March 11, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The Adjustment Bureau Makes You Really Think
When you say adjustment bureau, you have to ask yourself what do you mean the movie or the actual collection agency. There is an actual agency that goes after the big boys such as banks, auto dealers, finance companies and any other professional types. But, in this case we are talking about taking time out of our busy schedule to go to the matinee to see the movie Called Adjustment Bureau  starring Matt Damon. You know him, he is the star to all of the Borne Identity Movies. He is the perfect …
review by . March 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Avoid this Fate
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU   Written and Directed by George Nolfi   Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, Jack Slattery and Terence Stamp       David Norris: If I’m not supposed to be with her, why do I feel this way?       If you knew that being with you meant that the person you love would never realize his or her dreams, would you walk away from them?  If you wanted to, would you even be capable?  As …
review by . June 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   The Adjustment Bureau tries to make an analogy regarding today's world policies and differences between the highly corporations and the "average" people or better put regarding today's world "moral" slavery. However, trying does not equal succeeding and therefore we are witnesses to a decent idea managed poorly.      David Norris (Matt Damon) an ambitious young politician chases a seat in the U.S. Senate but due to a small error which …
Quick Tip by . January 03, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I was pleasantly surprised. I generally like Matt Damon and he was solid but Emily Blunt ensured that it was more romantic than the usual Philip Dick story but not also ensures its not just a chick flick with special effects.
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Willie Krischke ()
Ranked #62
I write reviews for the Durango Telegraph, Indian Life,,, and other publications from time to time.
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About this movie


The story is loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story "Adjustment Team", and features a smooth-talking congressman whose political future is thrown in doubt by uncontrollable events and the arrival of a mysterious ballerina in his life.

Matt Damon plays David Norris, a former Fordham University basketball player and charismatic United States Congressman who seems destined for national political stardom. He meets a beautiful ballet dancer named Elise Sellas, played by Blunt, only to find that strange circumstances keep them from becoming romantically involved. Norris discovers forces are at work to keep them apart, and he peels the layers to find out why. The action takes place in various places in Manhattan.

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Director: George Nolfi
Genre: Romance, Thriller
Release Date: 4 March 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Philip K. Dick, George Nolfi
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