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The Adjustment Bureau

A 2011 movie directed by George Nolfi.

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Needs some adjustments, but good as a drama.

  • Jul 9, 2011
*** 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 film based on one of Philip K. Dick's fascinating works of science fiction, and while it didn't blow my mind, it intrigued me all the same.

Whether you will enjoy the film or not is based on your acceptance and understanding of the film's themes. It's not just an entertaining film; it is one that deals with God and what happens when we temper with him. It involves characters who are euphemisms for angels, psychological chase sequences through flights of stairs that look more like labyrinths, and many other interesting, sometimes fascinating things. However, when I said that this is not merely an "entertaining film", I did not mean that it's NOT entertaining. In fact, "The Adjustment Bureau" is very, very entertaining when it wants to be, if not a bit uneven.

The film tells the kind of story that we all want to love, but a good number of us will simply enjoy how it's told, and perhaps we will even forget it. It involves the world's "youngest politician", David Norris (Matt Damon), who meets Elise (Emily Blunt), a beautiful young woman, in the men's bathroom. We don't know why she was there, but she was eavesdropping on David talking to himself, and they met by chance. And this proves to be a problem later on.

David discovers that he is being followed by ominous men in fedoras. There is one moment in which they corner him in order to explain a few things; such as the very narratively crucial revelation that David and Elise were never meant to be together.

Now, let's stop to talk about the men with the fedoras for a second. I think you're going to want to hear this one. The men are from an organization called the Adjustment Bureau. The men who work for the bureau are assigned with a little book, which contains a "plan" which certain people must live by. In the film, the bureau workers are attempting to convince David to live by his plan. In David's plan, he and Elise are not together.

I wish I could spoil the ending, which gives the film its overall message, but I will not. "The Adjustment Bureau" is the kind of movie that was made for some; and not made for others. It will divide audiences, it is far from perfect, but I had a good time watching it and thinking about it. Of course, it's not ingenious, but I recommend it none-the-less. I'm a real sucker for movies like this one; which deal with fate and such. This is not near as good as the "best of its kind", but what the hell; I'd say you should see it anyways.

I think one of the film's biggest redeeming factors is the chemistry between its two stars. Emily Blunt (who is beautiful) and Matt Damon (who is talented) are both very good in their separate roles, but even better when on-screen together. The romantic plot itself is clich├ęd and anything but deep, but I can forgive it; the acting works. Another thing I admired was how the film's director, newcomer George Nolfi, pays attention to how he films each thrilling "action-like" sequence. There's a scene where Damon's character gets a hold of a fedora, given to him from a sympathetic bureau member (played wonderfully by Anthony Mackie), and runs in the rain, and goes through many, many doors. This scene is brilliantly filmed, directed, and whatever else you could possibly attach to it. I suppose, in the end of the day, "The Adjustment Bureau" isn't a brilliant or miraculously thrilling film per se, but it is one that I was entertained by. It is smart, ambitious, but plays it a bit too safe at times. I admit that the film itself is a pretty big mess, but the miracle here is that it's still a fairly good one. And yes; messes can even be beautiful.

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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 …
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review by . June 25, 2011
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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
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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
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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
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review by . March 04, 2011
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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
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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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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