Free will is a myth – at least in the world of The Adjustment Bureau. Matt Damon stars as David Norris, a politician who has it in mind to be the senator for New York until his party-going side leads to a character assassination in the press. Little does he know that this fall is the beginning of his path to greatness.
Beaten down, Norris prepares his commiseration speech, only to run into Emily Blunt’s Elisa Sellas in the gent’s toilets. Immediately captivated by her honesty and frank view of the world, Norris decides to give his supporters a dose of his own honesty, coming clean about the lack of truth in his public image – even his tie was chosen for him because it focus tested well.
Now the film’s shadowy namesake organisation The Adjustment Bureau reveals itself. At first the collection of men in trilby hats suggest a sinister motive, but it soon transpires that, in fact, they are keeping the people of the world on their ‘path’.
When confronted by the Bureau and told that he can’t see Sellas ever again, Norris decides he won’t give up and the film soon gathers momentum, quickly becoming a chase movie as Norris continues to try to find her.
The unlikelihood of Norris and Sellas chance meetings and their love-at-first-sight romance are quickly forgiven as their relationship blossoms, making heartbreak at them being kept apart hit home all the more strongly, helped by some comfortable chemistry between the lead actors.
Terence Stamp as the Bureau’s Thompson makes for a reserved antagonist, ever keen to emphasise that everything that happens happens for a reason, and believing in shady overseer ‘the Chairman’s’ plan above all else. The subtlety of how Thompson and the rest of the Bureau affect the world is what make the effects of these minor changes so thought-provoking, such as missing the bus one morning preventing a life-changing meeting. This is a film which thrives on the ‘what if’ situations of life.
The story’s tone sits expertly between romance and thriller, making it an easy film to watch for anyone from the girliest girl to the biggest action man, and questions surrounding what exactly the people from the Bureau are – aliens? angels? spirits? – are mostly left up to the audiences imagination.
The plot comes from a screenplay by short story by Philip K. Dick, whose works have brought us Minority Report and Blade Runner. The sense of a world which is similar to ours but different shine through here, though the difference from other titles is that you catch yourself thinking of times when things happen for apparently no reason – a spilt cup of coffee, losing your mobile phone signal or internet connection problems – and begin attributing them to the work of the Bureau.
The film combines a spattering of Matrix-esque effects, such as moving through the city using doors as portals (all you need to do is wear a hat) with a gripping emotional journey which, while it may not be deep, really connects the audience with the characters and their struggle to be together despite the will of the world.
James Michael Parry