"This is getting really weird..."
-Senator David Norris (jokingly in response to a Jon Stewart joke)
A while ago, I read a screenplay by comedian Demetri Martin titled Will, which told the tale about a world where every piece of action and dialogue were scripted by angels. One day, a new lifewriter forgets to finish one person's life- Will. Will now has free will and wreaks havoc in this directed world. Now, the top brass, the angels, or whatever you'll call them must try and write their way to get him to stop, whether that means killing him or not. It was a hilarious script that reminded me heavily of something Charlie Kaufman would think of. This is before I knew more in depth of the works of author Philip K. Dick... P. Dick. ...I went there. Anywho, I was pretty much shocked when I went into the Adjustment Bureau to learn that it's basically the same thing as Will, but less comedic, and based on a short story by this P. Dick guy- yes, I will continue to call him that because it is hilarious in my mind. Now I know that it isn't a full on adaptation, and hell, perhaps Will is a loose reinterpretation of the story as well, but I must say that what The Adjustment Bureau pulls off in it's time span I can only describe as awesome. Awesome in just about all ways I can think of- the film beat the crap out of, killed, put into a bag and tossed into a river all my expectations. The Adjustment Bureau is impressive, and a very enjoyable ride.
Damon and Blunt
Like the script I spoke about above, The Adjustment Bureau basically portrays a world where all people are following a pattern and set structure, overseen by The Adjustment Bureau- basically, God's angels. Matt Damon plays a congressman who is running for Senate named David Norris, who is in sort of a flub as he nears his defeat in the race. Yet, on one chance encounter, as he practices his losing speech in a supposedly empty bathroom, he meets Elise (Emily Blunt), who he gets to be personal and open with. They kiss, and it's supposed to be the last time they ever meet. After that, David gives an electrifying speech that puts him ahead for the next election, though, he still has her on her mind. They meet again on a bus- a bus that he wasn't supposed to go on. This sets off a trail of events that was never supposed to happen, and that the Bureau desperately chases and tries to shut down before The Chairman's plan is squandered, which David intends on doing, as he's truly in love- but is it meant to be? It's insense sh*t.
My eyes widened a lot during my viewing of the Adjustment Bureau, and I also said "woah" quite a few times. Writer and director George Nolfi has captured my attention as an excellent driving force of a director and screenwriter. To start off, I have to say that I personally found the script to be great- it's creative, funny, heartfelt, et cete-forth. The dialogue he creates flows like waters down a river, and they come off as so great because of the actors and Nolfi's handle on them. Damon's character is truly likable, and has a demeanor that mixes his Ocean's character Linus with someone George Clooney would play- the perfect protago-hero. Considering the crazy stuff he sees and learns, he's as awesome struck as any one of us would be, and that's one good reason why following him works so well- the audience gets to put their selves in his half shiny, half dirty shoes (you'll get it when you see it.) Already step one for a great dramatic thriller, which The Adjustment Bureau definitely is.
A romance worth seeing play out
In the romance side of the film, Damon and Blunt have an almost unnaturally cute chemestry that makes their romance all the sweeter. Their dialogue and banter are legitimately funny and very naturalistic, and when things get romantic, you can truly sense the two are genuinely in love. With such great acting on their behalf, it makes the fight for that love much more intense and believable. And not only do they pull great performances- it's an ensemble effort with really good roles from Terrence Stamp in a frightening presence, a good sympathetic antagonist from John Slattery, and a surprising turn from Anthony Mackie. Their roles as the bureau agents ranges from scary and strangely fun to watch, just because of the methodology of their work. The universe they inhabit is truly unique and impressively crafted, visually and on paper.
Members of the Adjustment Bureau
I'm not sure how much of the way the Bureau's system and world is from the short story, but regardless, it's a very creative view on God and his angels' connection to earth and it's destiny. As a sort of government bureaucracy with files, systems, past records and all that stuff- it's all so fascinating, it's almost comical. More intriguing is their means to doing their jobs, which includes using random doors to essentially teleport to other locations, as well as their own hub. This kind of crazy thing is handled so well because of how detailed the film makes everything. So many little details are to be found here or there, whether it's in the elaborate drawings we see in the agents' books, or some small action that is meant to slow down Damon and Blunt. One aspect I do appreciate that is minute and almost unnoticeable to all people is that sometimes, when our protagonists are on
track with their lives, everything is in rhythm. Foot steps, alarm clock beeps, even smaller. This is a really clever detail that is only possible thanks to the film's great technical features.
The film definitely has a great way with words and it's own little sci-fi set up, but it should also be praised for how well it is made. Like mentioned in the last paragraph, a lot of the crazy door and action scenes are thanks to exceptional, detailed editing and camerawork. In certain respects, it felt like a Spike Jonze film- most moments of action had this weird Being John Malkovich vibe to them, like jumping through different locales and whatnot in a short amount of time through portals, if you will. Unlike a Jonze joint, no offense to him, in fact, I love his cinematography, but this is a great mix of handheld work and regular camera work with great composition that is stylish, but still tolerable and well balanced.
Our protagonist in the hands of the Adjustment Bureau
What makes these scenes work is the editing, which at a steady pace, holds hands with the script. Different locations collide when doors stay open, and at points people walk behind doors and such- it's pretty funny, yet still adds to the intriguing factor of this universe. There's one great scene, the bathroom scene, early on where Damon is practicing a losing speech, and it just fades into different parts of his speech- keeps on trucking. The introduction also has a fast, energetic feeling to it, and it makes thing seem exciting, even politics, hell if I know how they did that. After the first 30 mintues... hell, even before that, there's always this air of someone being watched or something bad about to happen. There's a consistent sense of urgency going on, and the film feels like it keeps on going even in more intimate, intense parts- trucks along without any detracting pace issues. Kudos to the director and editor of the film for making a great thriller alongside an already charming romance.
He's convincing. He's been convincing since The Informant! This kid needs an Oscar at some point- he deserves one!
It's this combination of awesome filmmaking, great acting, and brilliant scripting that made the Adjustment Bureau this kind of fun thriller with heartfelt drama sprinkled here and there. Writer Director George Nolfi has proven himself as a force to reckon with, as this is truly great stuff on a layered level, and in surface value. The amount of detail going into this sci fi universe is plentiful and well done, as well as well captured with stylish, great to look at cinematography, complimented by perfect editing. And with excellent lead actors leading the tale with true-feeling emotion, and personalities that are easy to back up, the film becomes even more fun with the relatability factor in check. This is, of course, also due to an amazing script, full of very smart dialogue and plot progression. Seriously, this is top notch stuff in a very good, fun film. No matter who you are, if you're going to see a film this weekend, this the most accessible, and it's hard for me to say, but possibly the best out there. Even in the future, this will hold up pretty well... until we start teleporting through doors.
I give The Adjustment Bureau a 5/5, because it's just one hell of a fun experience. I probably enjoyed it a little more than most, but regardless, it's a definite watch.
This is a movie poster.