• The Adjustment Bureau

    Released By: Universal
    Released On: 06/21/2011
    Director: George Nolfi
    Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp

    The Film:

    I am a fan of the works of author Philip K. Dick. Which is strange, because I’m not really a fan of the science fiction genre, be it written or filmed. I’m always intrigued to hear that one of Dick’s stories will be adapted for the big screen, wondering….will they get it right THIS time? To my knowledge, they haven’t yet. Though Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is perhaps the most widely-known and praised adaptation, it just didn’t do it for me. And while Total Recall is pretty cool in its own right, it’s still lacking. Don’t get me started on A Scanner Darkly or Minority Report; complete garbage.

    This brings us to The Adjustment Bureau, the film adaptation of Dick’s short story, “The Adjustment Team”. And how is it? Well, let me preface it by saying that I really don’t like when filmmakers trick you by disguising a fun-time date movie/love story as a sci-fi action thriller…which is definitely what has happened here. But despite its shortcomings in that area, The Adjustment Bureau is...better than Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly.

    Matt Damon stars as New York City Congressman David Norris, whose streetwise charm and down-to-earth persona promise to send him to the Senate, until an unfortunate photo from a college prank gone wrong makes the front page of the newspaper. Instead of making a victory speech, Norris arrives at his “celebration” hotel gala to explain to his supporters that he’ll do better next time. During a brief pre-speech foray into the washroom facilities, he encounters wedding crasher Elise (Emily Blunt), who is on the lam from hotel security. Elise has a spontaneous, vibrant personality that so overwhelms David that he kisses her briefly before she’s on the run again. Inspired by her awesomeness, David makes one of the most amazing “Sorry I got my ass kicked” speeches in the history of American politics, which is picked up by the major media outlets and essentially guarantees his win…next time.

    What David doesn’t know is that the chance meeting with Elise had nothing to do with chance; it was a carefully planned meeting arranged by The Adjustment Bureau, a group of hat-wearing, serious-looking fellows who “arrange” things for the greater good of the planet. With Elise’s speech-inspiring kiss out of the way, The Adjustment Bureau must focus their rising political star on the future, and that future can not involve meeting the beautiful Elise again, who will no doubt provide too much of a distraction for David to concentrate on his career. Unfortunately for the Bureau, an ill-timed nap on the part of one of their agents prevents them from running interference, and David once again encounters Elise on a city bus. The connection between the two is still strong, and as they bond during the ride, the Bureau realizes that they must take more severe steps, which will involve reprogramming David’s advisor, Charlie. This is where the film takes a cue from the short story, as David walks in during the reprogramming, and becomes formally introduced to the Adjustment Bureau. Here, David is told about his future prospects, and how being with Elise will ruin those chances. And then, it’s moral dilemma time…will David follow his heart and shrug off his political aspirations to be with his true love, or will he let her go on with her own life, trusting the Bureau that their plan really is for the greater good of the planet? He certainly isn’t given much of a choice, with the Bureau threatening his relationship at every turn.

    Moral dilemma plays into the film a whole lot, with the agents of the Bureau occasionally being hinted at as being “angels”, and the “Chairman” is the man in charge “upstairs”. Terms such as “the greater good” , “man’s free will” and such are also bandied about, and the filmmakers are definitely heavy-handed with the implications. This theme has a negative effect on the film ultimately; between the religious angle, the love story, and the science-fiction, The Adjustment Bureau goes for too much at once, and ends up losing focus as a result. That being said, the film itself is not bad on the whole. There’s no amateur-hour acting happening here, with Matt Damon coming across as very likeable, Emily Blunt being…well, charming, for lack of a better word, and Terence Stamp’s role as a heavy from “upstairs” is as convincing and effective as it can be, given the source material.

    Writer and Director George Nolfi wisely decided to shoot this film entirely in New York City; good call, George. The movie takes advantage of the gorgeous scenery and architecture that only New York City can offer, and uses a few landmarks such as The Rockefeller Center in a way that they haven’t been used on film before. As the film cuts through the city, courtesy of the unique way in which the Bureau travel, the sheer size and scope of the city comes across wonderfully...and the special effects don't hurt, either.

    So, all in all, while The Adjustment Bureau is lacking in a few areas, and definitely not the be-all, end-all of Philip K. Dick story adaptations…there’s too much good stuff to miss out on it.


    The Adjustment Bureau comes to Universal blu-ray in a 1.85:1 transfer that looks like a new film presented in high definition should. Black levels are solid with a good representation of colour (though a lot of it would appear to be intentionally muted) and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track is clear and coherent with good balance and liberal use of the surrounds and subwoofer.

    Some interesting, some not so interesting extras have also made it onto the disc. First up are six Deleted and Extended Scenes, which run about 7 minutes, and don’t really add too much to the story at all.

    Next up is Labyrinth of Doors-Interactive Map of New York City, which you will either find interesting or extremely annoying. Choosing one of the twelve doors on the map will show you where they lead (viewers of the film will understand what this means), and will either allow you to watch a behind the scenes clip, or a short segment from the film. It’s ultimately a whole lot of work with very little payoff.

    Leaping Through New York is an on-set featurette with interviews from the cast and Director, discussing shooting in New York City and the special effects used to create the door travel sequences. It runs just over seven-and-a-half minutes.

    Destined To Be runs approximately 5 minutes and again features the cast and Director specifically discussing the plot of the film.

    Becoming Elise is one of the more interesting supplements; running just over seven minutes, it documents Emily Blunt’s transformation from actress to dancer/actress, including interviews with the film’s choreographer.

    The Commentary with Writer/Director George Nolfi is, from what I managed to listen to of it, one of the more painful commentaries put to disc. Although he does occasionally talk about things like the locations that they shot in, special effects, and his attempts to mix genres, a good chunk of the commentary is Nolfi describing what’s happening on the screen, with large gaps of silence.

    The Final Word:

    While it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, The Adjustment Bureau has some worthwhile elements and some solid acting. Fans of the film will not go wrong purchasing the Universal blu-ray.
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Nolando's Avatar
      Nolando -
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Listen, I just got my damn Ontario girlfriend off of my fuckin case about this, the last thing that i need is for my PDX girlfriend to start on me.
    1. Nolando's Avatar
      Nolando -
      That's no answer, pal.
    1. paul h.'s Avatar
      paul h. -
      Thanks for the review! I'll check this out now that I know it's a PKD adaptation. I was all set to ignore as a Bourne clone, judging from the artwork.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Yeah, it's definitely nothing Bourne related....nothing at all.