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Movie review: ‘The Adjustment Bureau’

by Grace
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Hollywood’s imagination drain is the problem, but here’s the cure – Philip K. Dick.

The late science fiction author whose work influenced “Blade Runner” and “Total Recall” continues to inspire screenwriters with “The Adjustment Bureau,” a romantic thriller starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt star in “The Adjustment Bureau.”

“Bureau’s” sci-fi trappings can’t match other Dick adaptations, and you could drive a Hummer through some of its plot holes. But Dick’s fertile mind combined with two strong leads makes “Bureau” a tricky exploration of free will.

Damon stars as David Norris, a politician whose colorful past just cost him a senate seat in New York. He enters a men’s bathroom to mull over his concession speech when he meets Elise (Emily Blunt), who ducked into the bathroom after getting caught crashing a wedding.“People still do that?” he asks her, smiling.

Sure, it’s yet another hackneyed “meet cute” moment, but the two fire off some real sparks and kiss before they go their separate ways.

That buss convinces David to go the full “Bulworth” during his subsequent speech, talking about the machinations behind politics down to picking the most poll-approved tie color. The confession only makes him more popular, but David simply wants to see Elise again.

The folks at the Adjustment Bureau don’t want that to happen. It seems David and Elise were never meant to be together, and their accidental pairing could affect history. It’s up to a team of serious, “Mad Men” era Adjusters to get fate back on track, even if it means manipulating minds along the way.

“We’re the people who make sure everything goes according to plan,” says an Adjustment Bureau drone played by John Slattery.

Writer/director George Nolfi, who penned “The Bourne Ultimatum,” makes Damon into a credible political aspirant with some help via cameos by Jon Stewart, former DCN Chair Terry McCauliffe and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. It’s a nice touch that strangers keep recognizing David on the streets of New York, something other filmmakers likely wouldn’t have bothered including.

And yes, David is a Democrat, but politics don’t play much of a role here beyond talk of solar panels and cozy interviews on “The Daily Show.”

Early on, an Adjustment worker threatens David with being “expunged” – meaning his brain will get wiped clean if he doesn’t do as they say. But the threats the Bureau pose are never serious enough for a thriller like this. Terence Stamp plays the Bureau’s heaviest hitter, but even the erstwhile General Zod can’t bring enough menace to merit all that running during the film’s final reel.

Anthony Mackie provides the Bureau’s conscience as the worker assigned to breaking up David and Elise, but overall these Bureaucrats are often too ridiculous to fear. How tough can they be when the bulk of their power rests in their ’50s era hats?

Instead, we’re left rooting for David and Elise to outwit the Bureau goons and fall properly in love. Blunt is both plucky and unconventional, a fine romantic foil for a politician eager for something unexpected in his life.

“The Adjustment Bureau” may be a so-so sci-fi affair, but the heartstrings plucked along the way by Damon and Blunt pay tribute to Dick’s fanciful imaginings.

Source: Washington Times

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