Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Timing is everything in “The Adjustment Bureau”

By Margaret Clayton

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“The Adjustment Bureau,” from writer and director George Nolfi, is an action film anchored in the chase of romance, appealing to an audience varied in gender and age. It is based on the short story “Adjustment Team” (1954) by Philip K. Dick, whose other works have also been turned into films which include “Minority Report,” “Total Recall” and “Blade Runner.”

The story spans five years following young politician David Norris (Matt Damon) and Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), a dancer who captures Norris’ heart on election night.

In the beginning of the film, Norris is campaigning for senate across the state of New York, making appearances at both his alma mater and on the international level on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” His personal history has attained him some public attention, as he is the youngest congressman in history, and he lost his parents and brother at a young age growing up in Brooklyn. This level of exposure also seems to have attracted the attention of a group of men in trench coats and fedoras who are spotted in the crowds at Norris’ speeches, in the park on his route to work, and seated elsewhere in the restaurants where he takes his lunch breaks.

When sleeping on the job ends up costing Norris a lot more than a paycheck, it is revealed that this shadowy envoy is the “Adjustment Bureau,” a group of case officers for destiny. Their resources are a library of books with constantly changing type and a steadfast belief that any part of their job that is emotionally jarring is for the good of the greater plan.

The Bureau gives the air of an unemotional cult, as the members are referred to by their last names only, with the exception of Harry, who is the first associate shown. They have a power that is crushing if one attempts to stand against them, which Norris learns in an abandoned warehouse that sets up the audience’s schema for a torture chamber.

No one succeeds in killing off the main character during the first 20 minutes of the film, and the plot continues to follow Norris and Sellas as their chemistry flares and paranoia seeps in.

John Slattery, better known for his roles in television’s “Mad Men” and “Desperate Housewives,” is the white-haired Richardson, a Bureau boss who cleans up messes. Terence Stamp, who plays the unforgiving villain Ramsley in “The Haunted Mansion,” once again takes on the role of merciless dictator in the fate of his fellow characters.

Given its multi-million dollar budget, the film is disappointing in its execution. The editing lacks continuity, as shown by the discrepancy in the types of phones used (Blackberry vs. a generic silver flip-phone) and clothes that were torn off passionately magically reappearing the morning after. The audience can easily forgive these shortcomings, though, because the film is intelligent, with real characters whose break-ups are based on lost phone numbers and a fear of being hurt again. These qualities bring a degree of realism to the film, allowing the audience to relate to the characters.

“The Adjustment Bureau” picks up on the classic “race against time” theme dominating theaters. The film bears a noticeable resemblance to recent hits “Inception” and “Black Swan,” with changing dimensions and an injured dancer. But what separates the film from thrillers of the past year is an accessibility that does not make one’s head hurt, even when one fears for the characters’ safety.

Damon explores his emotional side running from the underground law and Blunt is as saucy and beautiful as ever, not hiding her charming accent for this American film. The struggle between fate and true love is the tension explored in this Hollywood blockbuster that opens doors to an untold future.

Margaret Clayton can be reached at [email protected]

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