D/W: George Nolfi. DP: John Toll. Starring: Matt Damon/Emily Blunt/Anthony Mackie/John Slattery/Terence Stamp/Michael Kelly. (Based on the short story “Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick.)
The much delayed film, The Adjustment Bureau, finally hit theaters recently, but was still unable to make much of a splash. Trailers and spots for the film first surfaced back in June and July of 2010, but were promptly yanked out of theaters when the film’s release date was pushed. Finally resurfacing over the holidays, the film was finally given a March release date. Whatever Universal’s reasoning was, it was at least surprising given the box office appeal of Matt Damon and rising buzz on co-star Emily Blunt.
Nevertheless, The Adjustment Bureau, did not disappoint on all accounts. Fresh on the political circuit, Matt Damon’s character, David Norris, attempts to win his own youthful seat in the Senate for New York. The night he finds out his fate and failure, he meets dazzling Elise (Emily Blunt) in a men’s bathroom, champagne in hand, grin on her face. The sparks fly and Damon will essentially spend the entire film attempting to reconnect with her and prove that their love is more important than either of their careers or anything that comes between them.
But what comes between them will not go down without a fight. The Adjustment Bureau team, lead my John Slattery’s Richardson and Anthony Mackie’s Harry, correct things and keep certain people on their right and fateful track. However, all this can be surmised just by the trailer. Safe it to say the rest of the film plays out the way you would expect. But what you might not expect is that rather than the Bureau or the psychological understanding that they even exist being the center of the film, it is instead the love story. Damon and Blunt convincingly jump into their chemistry, which will have most audiences believe that their connection is the driving force of the film and what makes it watchable.
This romantic emphasis forces the film to jam all its action towards the very end of the film, but it is mostly all running and screaming. And unfortunately, throughout the second half you can’t help but wonder why both Damon and Blunt were so quick to believe in the Bureau and why the Bureau never attempted to distract either character with other potential mates. In that sense, both Slattery and Mackie lack spontaneity and conviction as the main Bureau men. Neither of them are menacing or threatening, which actually adds to the smoothness of the film, but the stakes never felt high enough or unexpected.
Lastly, in my opinion, the concept of the film would have made a great Hitchcock film. The film surely took its cues from him, but not quite well enough. Yet the story has all the elements, whether it is waking up with one’s fate changed, the visual of doors leading to other places, or just the classic Hitchcock man seeing the classic Hitchcock woman (of course Emily would have had to have been blond) walk down the street and change the entire story. The filmmakers only scratched the surface of the potential of this story, and that is ultimately why it disappoints.