The Adjustment Bureau

Film , Action and adventure
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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The Adjustment Bureau
One suspects that this sleek and diverting directorial debut from George Nolfi will find it tough to escape from the immense shadow of Christopher Nolan’s similarly themed ‘Inception’. Which is a shame, as it shares just as much common interest with such conspiracy-inspired sci-fi as ‘The Dead Zone’, ‘They Live!’ and ‘The Manchurian Candidate’. And as a film that fuels the belief that the political agenda is set by a cadre of shady, back-room types, it has genuine substance.
Based on Philip K Dick’s short story ‘Adjustment Team’, its central concept proposes that there exists a clandestine, male-only sect whose job is to align the life trajectories of certain specially selected humans in order to prevent global catastrophe. Here the simple aim is to prevent New York ‘bad boy’ politician David Norris (Matt Damon) from shacking up with Emily Blunt’s Elise, who happens to be interpretive dance’s answer to Holly Golightly. If that aim is met, he’ll go on to the White House and she’ll blossom into a world-renowned choreographer.

The oddly conspicuous bureau boys all resemble the noirish ‘Mad Men’ version of the Madison Avenue advertising shark, their swish, swipe-card fedoras allowing them to hop around cities using doorways as teleportation portals. As with ‘Inception’, the film’s conceit assumes that the infinite possibilities of human experience can be manipulated to achieve a single purpose, and as such it leaves numerous plot holes in its wake (the largest being the vague reasons why the agents reveal themselves to Damon’s character). Nolfi began his career as a writer, which perhaps explains why he tries to keep the action character-driven: the sweet chemistry between Damon and Blunt does at least make their romantic, potentially existence-threatening bond credible. But it could also explain the extreme lack of ambition in how the concept is presented visually. Nolfi – unlike his hero – shows no willingness to stray from the beaten track.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday March 4 2011
Duration: 106 mins

Cast and crew

Director: George Nolfi
Screenwriter: Philip K. Dick, George Nolfi
Cast: Anthony Mackie
Terence Stamp
Jon Stewart
Emily Blunt
Matt Damon
John Slattery