Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau

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“Your future has been adjusted.” Do we create our own fate or are we part of a pre-determined plan? This is the basis of the latest Philip K. Dick’s (“Blade Runner,” “Total Recall,” “Minority Report”) adaptation, “The Adjustment Bureau.”

David Norris (Matt Damon) is a young, rising politician seeking a congressional seat. In the eve of the election, a report surfaces about his brawl at a college reunion. His rating plummets among his constituents, concerned about his maturity level.

In the men’s restroom practicing his concession speech, David encounters “Elise” (Emily Blunt). She is hiding from security since she has crashed a wedding upstairs. The attractions are instant and transparent, and there’s a peculiar sense of familiarity. His exchange with Elise inspires him to change his speech into a honest confession, which rouses the audience and prepares him for the next run.

David surprisingly runs into Elise again, in a bus that he’s taking to his new job at a venture capital firm. After more flirtation, he gets her telephone number and promises to call. When he arrives at the firm, he witnesses a mind-boggling scene involving strange men in suits and sterile outfits. Before he could makes sense of what he has seen, he’s abducted.

The leader, Richardson (John Slattery), of the abductors explains to David that he’s not supposed to have met Elise the second time in the bus. They are ethereal beings, “adjusters,” who walk among humans on earth to ensure that things go according to The Plan. This plan is written by the “Chairman” and laid out on a mysterious notebook. It’s imperative that they maintain balance to keep the world’s order.

In David’s instance, his “case worker,” “Harry” (Anthony Mackie), dozed off at a park bench and missed spilling David’s coffee earlier, which would have caused him to miss the bus. The adjusters took the piece of paper that contains Elise’s phone number. Without a last name, he would not be able to find Elise in a city with the size of Manhattan. David is sternly warned that if he were to reveal their existence to anyone, they would erase his memory.

Flash forward three years. David has been riding the bus with the same route every day in hopes that he would run into Elise again. He spots her one day on the street and reconnects. He finds out that Elise is a star dancer. Soon David is pursued again, now by one of the higher-ups, Thompson (Terence Stamp). It’s made clear to him history has proven that higher interventions are needed in order to set the course of mankind and protect our survival. His wayward meet-up with Elise has ripple effects. David and Elise must stay apart for the purpose of greatness, or it would result in consequences that could no longer be adjusted.

After time apart, David races to find Elise but finds that she’s going to marry someone else. With the help of his sympathetic guardian, he attempts to outrun the adjusters – and his fate – through invisible doors. These doors fluidly lead to an entirely different place. The movements are smartly set against sparse blocks of the city, buildings, stadium, park and rooftop. The rain and river serve a distinct purpose in the story.

Fate vs. free will never fails to intrigue me. One of the most haunting films of the last decade is “The Butterfly Effect.” Personally, I believe that we do carve our own destiny. At the same time, we’re also part of a larger plan. There are things that do happen to us, or around us, beyond our control. Happenstances occur, but we also create our own chances in other situations. We have choices within our paths. And while we may not be able to change the way something happens, we choose the way we respond to it.

Despite the thought-provoking premise, the plot is slim; it’s certainly not “Inception” and David Norris is no Jason Bourne. While it’s suspenseful, the pace becomes rather monotonous. Nevertheless, if chemistry can make or break a picture, Damon and Blunt’s chemistry as star-crossed lovers sustains the interest. All the hurt aside, David and Elise ultimately have intense faith in their love and each risks everything for a chance to be together.

“The Adjustment Bureau” is primarily a romantic story and sci-fi thriller secondary, but I enjoyed it equally. If you’re a sci-fi fan, go for the mind-bender mystery. If you dig action, there are thrills in the runs and chases. And if you’re a romance-lover, this one is for the hopeless romantics.

Copyright (c) 2011. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, lifestyle/travel writer and film columnist. She can be reached at Nathalia owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven (

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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