Warning: While I normally do my best not to divulge too much information about a film or present spoilers, to talk about “The Adjustment Bureau” I do have to go into a little more detail than usual at some points, but really I am not saying anything the movie doesn’t tell you itself in the first thirty minutes.
Matt Damon plays Congressman David Norris, who, on the night he loses his race for a Senate seat “by chance” meets Elise (Emily Blunt), the a-typical free-spirited female that brings out the true David Norris. They part from their fleeting moment of being together and David doesn’t even know her name. Flash forward three months later where David bumps into Elise on bus and they reconnect. The only problem is, they were not supposed to meet again. Here is where we are officially introduced to “The Adjustment Bureau.” The Bureau are basically God’s fix-it team, who make sure that everything in the world goes “according to plan.” Before David made it to that bus, Henry (Anthony Mackie) was supposed to make sure David spilled coffee on himself, forcing him to go back home and change, but “by chance” Henry fell asleep. Making David miss the bus however, was not meant to keep him from seeing Elise, the fact that she was on the bus was again, “chance.” Really it was meant so he didn’t show up to work on time and see the Bureau making some adjustments to his friend’s mind so that “the plan” worked in full swing.
But David doesn’t miss the bus, he meets Elise again and he sees the Bureau doing their job. The Bureau now has no choice other to be honest and straight with David and tell him about how the world works and about what they do. They even tell him, “according to the plan” he needs to stay away from Elise and that is where the film really kicks off. David decides that it doesn’t matter what he was told and three years later when “by chance” he runs into Elise again, he does everything he can to keep her in his life.
Now, I am going into a lot of detail here, because while “The Adjustment Bureau” ultimately is an enjoyable film, it has some massive flaws in its logic. When first confronted by the Bureau David tries to run away, only to be tripped by floor board that was pulled up by one of the Bureau simply by pointing at the board. They have the power to have something happen purely by pointing at it. So why then didn’t Henry just point at the bus David was on as he chased it and have the motor fail? He could have done numerous other things after missing his opportunity to have David spill his coffee, but instead just tried to chase the bus down on foot. There is a slight implication that the Bureau teams just act by command and that if told, “Make David spill his coffee” then that is the only option they have, but that is a very vague and slight implication. The Bureau even has members dress up as cops and TV production assistants to make sure all their adjustments are properly made. Yet, they seem to only stick to one line of options the entire time.
My other big issue comes with what the movie is trying to say. Ultimately the film is piece about the idea of free will as opposed to doing what is right. With the knowledge David gains about the Bureau, he can play nice and just go along with his day knowing that it is all for the greater good or he can fight for the girl of his dreams and possible effect the whole world in exchange. However, let’s say everything in the end were to work out perfectly. David can have the girl and the plan works, so on and so forth. He still retains his knowledge about the Bureau and I think that is something that would drive a person mad. Let’s say David wakes up one morning and wants eggs, only to find out he has no eggs at home and there is 12 inches of snow outside, so he eats a waffle instead. If I were David, I would have to think, maybe the bureau came in last night, took all my eggs that I remember having and worked things out so I had that waffle that gave me indigestion forcing me to take some Tums. Then when I went to get the Tums I see a murder from my window and call the police to save the day, so on and so on. No matter how much I thought I originally won the day, I would still feel as if I had no control over my life. Now the film deals with the issue that maybe David’s plight was one that is the sign of humans getting to the point were we would have true free will, but everything is so loose and filled with holes, you have to wonder about all the possibilities.
Away from plot holes and thematic rhetoric, my only other real problem with the film was the Bureau as a whole. They were dealt with very lightly in the film and almost without any mystery. “The Adjustment Bureau” felt like a thriller with not enough thrill for a large chunk of it. Again, this may just be me though. I like things that come off a little darker for the most part and that is not “The Adjustment Bureau.”
The things I like most about the movie though, were Emily Blunt and Anthony Mackie. I have never been a huge Emily Blunt fan, and while she did not come out with the performance of a lifetime here, she was very enjoyable and believable in this role. It is good to see what she can do when not in a role that demands over acting. Mackie on the other hand is an actor with amazing promise and one of the finest young actors out there. His performance was understated and subtle while showing just enough of his emotional struggles without overdoing it. That being said, John Slattery as the head of Mackie’s adjustment team was the acting low point of the film and it was hard taking him seriously at all.
When all is said and done, “The Adjustment Bureau” missed on a lot of marks, more so then I mention here but it hit enough of them to still be worthy of your time.