‘The Adjustment Bureau’

Movies
March 10, 2011

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt race to outfox destiny

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The Adjustment Bureau
Rated PG-13, 105 minutes
Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Terence Stamp
Directed by George Nolfi

How much of your life is destiny, a path you were fated to walk, and how much depends on the choices you make, the detours you take?

Philosophers have chewed on that question forever. Now it’s Matt Damon’s turn.

In The Adjustment Bureau, he plays a rising young politician who finds out his life has diverted from the master plan that’s been plotted out for him. To get it back on track, a mysterious group of nattily dressed men in neckties and fedoras emerge from the shadows to make the necessary “adjustments” in his course.

Specifically, the adjusters scramble to keep Damon’s character, New York congressman David Norris, apart from the beautiful British dancer, Elise (Emily Blunt), he wasn’t “supposed” to meet—and certainly wasn’t meant to love.

Shave 90 minutes off the running time and 50 years from the contemporary setting, and this could have been a Twilight Zone episode from the 1950s. I kept expecting Rod Serling to step into the frame, cigarette in hand, setting the stage for the bizarre turn of events about to befall the promising young pol and the ballerina.

Norris is understandably skeptical when he accidentally discovers (oops!) what’s going on behind the seemingly normal scenes of his life. Quite naturally, he resists the adjustment bureau’s efforts. He’s determined to make his own choices, even after he’s warned that doing so will not only screw up not only his own success, but also ruin the life of the woman he’s determined to pursue.

So who are the adjusters, the people who make sure things go according to plan?

When Damon’s character asks, he’s told they’re not angels. But they’ve been around for a long, long time, keeping low profiles but always there, always watching, always adjusting. And they’ve definitely got some powerful connections—up there, out there, somewhere. They’ve had their fingers in the slow-baking pie of human history, it’s explained, from the very beginning.

Their fedoras pack some powerful juju, allowing them (or anyone else lucky enough to snag one) access to magical “shortcuts” that make zipping around New York a breeze. Sometimes a door is just a door, but some doors, some times, can be so much more.

This is some heavy stuff, although not as much of an inside-out head trip as last year’s “Inception. Damon and Blunt make a fine-looking couple, believable in the mind-blowing dilemma they find themselves, racing to outrun—and outfox—destiny. And first-time director George Nolfi does a good job wrapping romance, action and mystery around an intriguing story touching on religion, philosophy, the battle between free will and fate, and the awesome, life-altering power of love.  

The Adjustment Bureau is never preachy, but it does leave you with plenty to ponder. And those magic hats—super snazzy. Where can I get one?!