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The Adjustment Bureau

A 2011 movie directed by George Nolfi.

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There is No Fate But What We Make....But Do We Need Adjustment?

  • Mar 5, 2011
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 like “Serendipity” colliding with “Dark City” and “Butterfly Effect“, and then in turn wraps itself with “Love Story” devices and then with that foreign film called “Wings Of Desire“. It is an odd film to be certain but I will have to say that what I have stated wouldn’t exactly describe its true experience. “The Adjustment Bureau” is a movie about love, courage and faith.

An aspiring politician hoping to make it to the Senate seat of New York named David Norris (Matt Damon) hopes to make his mark in this world despite his past reputation of recklessness. On the evening of his most important public speech, David meets an intriguing beautiful woman named Elise (Emily Blunt), a spirited ballerina who immediately forms a strange kind of bond with the young politician; she scurries away into the night, leaving a strong impression with David. When they meet again by chance or by fate’s hand, David seizes the moment to try and make an impression on Elise in turn. Unfortunately, this pairing has been marked as “forbidden” by the plans laid out by “the Chairman”, who watches over humanity through his “adjustment bureau”, a group comprised of impeccably-dressed men who oversee humanity’s most prominent figures, and they have ruled that David and Elise should not fall in love. But David has other ideas, and a sympathetic employee named Harry (Anthony Mackie) may just be the wildcard David needs to turn the tables on fate itself…

                        Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in "The Adjustment Bureau."

  Emily Blunt in "The Adjustment Bureau."  Matt Damon in "The Adjustment Bureau."

I suppose one can say that “The Adjustment Bureau” is a film that takes a chance. The film has a lot of foreshadowing, some injected humor and even some thrills as the direction goes for some emotional connection with its viewers. It isn’t so much as what, how and who, but the more important thing would be the “why’s”. The film gets its footing on a slope that seems uneven at first, but it manages to entice and intrigue me as to how it will develop its premise of star-crossed lovers that may cause disastrous ripples and effects. There is a lot of ideas thrown into the film and its possibilities would almost be endless; to make things simple, the film focuses on the relationship between Elise and David while it reveals the enigmatic “men in hats”.

I liked the way the film developed the ‘men in hats” the more it brings the focus of its story in David. As powerful as the men in hats really are, they seem to have their limitations and the film carries hints of one supreme being. This supreme being seems to be the weaver of fate and protects humanity from itself. Humanity has always had the strong tendency to destroy themselves as shown in history. This adjustment bureau was formed to protect man’s best interest. They ‘nudge’ when needed, they divert when they deem necessary; it is all part of a plan. It does make the single times when I spilled my coffee or when you forget something seemed to be a hand of fate.

                         John Slattery and Matt Damon in "The Adjustment Bureau."

Yet, Nolfi has no such qualms of creating a science fiction movie or even a fantasy tale. He opts to appeal to the emotions of the viewer as the film focuses on the developing love between David and Elise. There is a lot of humanity within the film; themes of free will, the need to stand up to your beliefs, and push on to attain what you want. Seems like humans are seen as trying to fill a void, and sometimes, the void can only be filled only when you hold on and to take a chance. Yes, one may say that the film missed some opportunities, but this would only be true if you think “The Adjustment Bureau” is a sci-fi film. It is a fantasy perhaps, but the humanity is strong within.

                          Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in "The Adjustment Bureau."

                         A scene from "The Adjustment Bureau."

I guess what sold me to the film were the performances of Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. They made it seem so easy to connect with their characters. You could just feel that they are indeed in love and that they are star-crossed lovers. Blunt played her Elise character with a strong feeling of ‘spunky’ charisma and it works to balance out David’s supposed “reckless” personality. Their bond was just believable that I was easily invested into their plight, that I was rooting for them to win over the ‘adjusters’. When David saw Elise dance for the first time, I was taken with their facial expressions. I was happy to see the couple get strong support from Mackie and Terence Stamp who plays the adjuster called “Thompson” who chases them everywhere from Yankee stadium to the Statue of Liberty.

The film does maintain an even energy about it. But there were some rough spots as well, as there were parts that I thought that could’ve been trimmed down. I did enjoy some of the film’s more humorous parts; I know there were times when I thought the film should’ve been a little more foreboding, but I guess I can see why the direction injected some humor. I thought some parts almost overplayed themselves, but I forgave some of its faults. The film does have some great cinematography about it, I liked the camerawork and the costume designs were very good.

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in "The Adjustment Bureau."  Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in "The Adjustment Bureau."

                    A scene from "The Adjustment Bureau"

“The Adjustment Bureau” is a film about fate and love, you find faith and courage within yourself. How can something that feels so right be something so disastrous? The ending felt a little lacking compared to what was laid out earlier in the film, albeit Nolfi managed to keep things together by appealing to lighter side of the equation. It becomes nearly a film about life and choices themselves, and why we have to fight for what we believe in. Hey, maybe I was ‘adjusted’ to write this review….but then again, maybe not. You decide.

Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
Poster art for "The Adjustment Bureau"  Poster art for "The Adjustment Bureau."

There is NO Fate But What You Make....But Do We Need Adjustment? There is NO Fate But What You Make....But Do We Need Adjustment?

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October 31, 2011
Finally caught this and I loved it. Thanks for the review, Woo!
November 04, 2011
Glad you liked it! I think it may qualify as a 'love story' in a way....
March 20, 2011
Ooo! Looks good! Adding it to my list of films I need to see. Great write-up!
November 04, 2011
seen this yet?
March 11, 2011
It'd Damon so you know I'd go see it, LOL... Will let u know what I think AFTER I've seen it ;p
March 11, 2011
sweet! did you read Orlok's essay under your "Inspirations" COL?
March 10, 2011
Great review, Woo! I agree that Blunt and Damon were phenomenal- I also liked Mackie and have liked him in other films I've seen him in. As you know, I was excited to see this one. I liked it until the end- which in an already unrealistic movie seemed over-the-top unreal and cheesy.
March 10, 2011
Agreed on all counts. I am an Emily Blunt fan and I think Damon is a great actor ;). This had the right ingredients to become really effective and memorable, but alas, it fell a short. I think I would've liked it more if the ending was bleaker or depressing. That ending felt a little cheap.
March 10, 2011
Yep! Cheap and fast- like they ran out of all the good ideas and just decided to toss that one in there to wrap it up for today's ADHD audiences used to 3D action effects.
March 07, 2011
I feel more inspired to see this now - I was thinking it would be "The Box" meets "Paycheck"... the trailer really shot be reshot!
March 07, 2011
I actually liked "the Box's" premise but I wasn't impressed with the movie-"Paycheck" had a good premise but for some reason it bored the heck out of me. I understand, that trailer makes it seem like a Twilight Zone episode, which it is anything but. @ loved this movie, give his review a peek.
March 05, 2011
I'll be checking this out in the next week or so. Life sucks so I need some distraction.
March 05, 2011
I know how you feel. Next week may be my last week reviewing for awhile. things are starting to become really filled with suckage.
March 06, 2011
It's odd, but everyone I know, myself included, seem to be really depressed right now. I wonder if it's coincidence or if we all have some cosmic sense of impending doom... LOL!
March 06, 2011
well, if you can remember, I was depressed also the past few weeks, and admittedly a little bit even now. Hmm...coincidence or cosmic significance?
March 06, 2011
Perhaps human coincidence bears cosmic significance and vice versa. ;)
March 06, 2011
maybe. My friends are actually getting worried about 2012...(not me). I dunno maybe I'm just getting old. Maybe we need "adjustment" LOL! Hey, you saw my  "Rango" review yet?
March 05, 2011
You make the film sound much better than I thought it would be, I guess I have to check it out. Great review WP.
March 05, 2011
Yeah, it proved much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. It wasn't perfect, but sometimes, it is refreshing to be reminded of the fact that free will is something that needs to be treasured. After all, the past is history, the future is a mystery, while today is a gift--which is why it is called 'present'.
More The Adjustment Bureau reviews
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 . May 02, 2011
Like Rango, ever since I saw a trailer for this with True Grit I had very high hopes for this movie. In some ways, this movie satisfied my expectations, but in some ways, it didn't. To put it in plain speech, The Adjustment Bureau was not the science fiction epic I thought it was going to be, but it was an entertaining and interesting movie with two strong lead performances and an interesting premise. Like the critics said, it did have some trouble maintaining a consistent tone, seeing as it …
review by . March 15, 2011
Like Rango, ever since I saw a trailer for this with True Grit I had very high hopes for this movie. In some ways, this movie satisfied my expectations, but in some ways, it didn't. To put it in plain speech, The Adjustment Bureau was not the science fiction epic I thought it was going to be, but it was an entertaining and interesting movie with two strong lead performances and an interesting premise. Like the critics said, it did have some trouble maintaining a consistent tone, seeing as it …
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 …
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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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