It must be in John Slattery's contract that, whether he's in an episode of Mad Men or anything else, he is to be provided a fedora. No discussion. Here he is, lurking in the canyons of midtown like a gumshoe ghost; you can't help but wonder if the near future promised by these new-breed conspiracy thrillers like The Adjustment Bureau and Inception is, if not especially hopeful, an undeniably well-tailored one. Slattery has company: a whole team of similarly natty planners who, mysteriously, can control events and change the course of history. They all seem obsessed with Matt Damon (some things never change), a bad-boy local politician who might be President one day. We see him hobnobbing with the real-life Jon Stewart, Michael Bloomberg and other cameoing media folk. Clouds gather on the horizon; you stop laughing at the hats for a while.
The zing here comes from echoes of The Manchurian Candidate, as well as the paranoid doominess of source author Philip K. Dick (whose 1954 short story gets completely revised). But honestly, hunting down the whys of this movie's setup gets tiresome. We're starved for facts, and the shifting terrain becomes too random. Rather, The Adjustment Bureau works better---when it's allowed to---as a romance, la the immortal French twisteroo "La Jete." Emily Blunt, she of the deeply un-British rapacious gaze, shows up as a dancer with no shortage of sarcastic comebacks. Damon's pol is smitten yet warned by the hat gang to steer clear. In a better scenario, Blunt herself would be the ultimate puppet master, pulling the strings on a citywide production. You outsmart the movie way too soon.
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