Who Said the Romantic Sci-Fi Thriller Was Dead?

The Adjustment Bureau (March 4, 2011)    3.5/5

Written & Directed by George Nolfi (Universal Pictures)

Who would have guessed that one of the year’s better romances is based on a Philip K. Dick story?  George Nolfi, who co-wrote The Bourne Ultimatum, not only stages a thrilling, climatic chase sequence through Manhattan (complete with teleportation), but also fleshes out a believable, moving romance between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.

Damon plays David Norris, a Congressman who campaigns for the Senate, only to have his sure-fire victory whisked away by some embarrassing muckraking.  Devastated, he goes to the hotel bathroom to rehearse his concession speech.  To his surprise, he finds a woman.  And if that wasn’t enough, he soon finds himself in a kiss.  It is almost as if this was meant to happen.  It was, but not in the way he expected.  David is soon confronted by the “Adjustment Bureau,” a team that makes sure all human beings abide by “the plan,” on order from “the Chairman.”  They tell David that he can never meet with Elise Sellas again.  If he does, there will be consequences.  This sets off a chain of events that lasts several years, involving not only forbidden romance, but also lots of men with hats and suits.

Damon and Blunt give surprisingly fulfilling performances, especially in a film that is quite cartoonish.  That said, Anthony Mackie and John Slattery are fairly two-dimensional as members of the bureau.  But maybe that’s the point.  After all, they aren’t human.  But we are, and it is quite interesting to see how the humanity comes across in The Adjustment Bureau.  It’s all a bit silly, but underneath is a quite meaningful message, religious in nature, but conveyed through science fiction metaphor.  And isn’t that what sci-fi was always meant to be?  An easier way to understand the complex facts of human life?  Not to say the The Adjustment Bureau is complex.  But during a time of year when such a film is a rarity, it doesn’t have to be.  It has a plan in store for the audience.  And once you’re sucked in, it’s easy to ignore the scent of cheese and abide.

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