“It doesn’t matter how you feel. All that matters is what’s black and white.”
These words, said by Richardson in the film The Adjustment Bureau, are the byproduct of a society built upon the notion of fate and logical thinking. They also seem to fly in the face of human nature and our concept of free will. But do they?
When I first saw the trailer, I thought it was an interesting concept for an action-thriller. Apparently nine of my friends agreed, as they wanted to see it with me. After promising my first-born son to my editor so that we could all see it together, we got the chance to go.
David Norris (Matt Damon) is a young, charismatic Congressman from New York running for a seat in the Senate. He seems to be the favorite to win, but a picture of him flashing his butt in public comes back to haunt him. On election night, he ends up getting thoroughly defeated. Apparently politics is a beauty contest, and his ass just didn’t meet the voters’ standards. As he prepares his speech conceding defeat, he encounters Elise (Emily Blunt), who for some reason was in the men’s restroom. They strike up a conversation and share a brief kiss. After this encounter, Damon decides to stray from his designed speech and speak from the heart.
As time goes on, David finds himself going through the motions in life, still captivated by Elise and unable to shake her from his head. Randomly one morning, he happens to catch the same bus she does. They strike up a conversation and she gives him her phone number. Unbeknownst to both of them, he was not meant to see her again. An agent of fate named Harry (Anthony Mackie) was supposed to cause David to spill his coffee on himself, forcing him to change his shirt and miss the bus.
Eventually, the true nature of the Adjustment Bureau is revealed. There are certain beings within people’s lives who are designed to keep people on the path they’ve been designated to follow. In the past, attempts to let people utilize free will led to the Dark Ages, the world wars, and the Cuban missile crisis. These agents do whatever they can to make sure people don’t stray too far; if they do, the agents must do a reset and alter a person’s mindset. It is eventually revealed that in previous versions of the plan, David and Elise are not meant to be together, but in several previous versions of the plan, they were. David, completely enraptured with Elise, is determined to go off his path and be with her, even if it means sacrificing his future candidacy for Senate and, eventually, president.
I found the premise pretty interesting. I’ll admit, based on the previews, I thought it would contain a lot more action than it actually did, a la I, Robot. Damon does a solid job as a charismatic lovestruck man, and Blunt is well-suited to her role, but neither of them really stand out memorably. The writing is solid and well-paced, but by the end, the audience is all but aware of what’s gonna happen in the next scene.
In the end, it’s the premise of the film and the execution that’s really gonna get people going to the film. It won’t garner the attention that premise-driven films in recent years have, but it’s an entertaining date movie and one that’ll at least give you pause the next time you have to make a decision that might change your life.
The Adjustment Bureau gets a B-.