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DIRECTOR: George Nolfi
CAST: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp
CLASSIFICATION: 13M L
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
MAKING good use of the excellent chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, Adjustment Bureau is at heart a love story about how far you’ll go to be with the one you love.
Of all the films based on Phillip K Dick stories, this one’s setting is the closest to contemporary when compared to Minority Report’s near future, or Blade Runner’s farflung, neon, dystopian future. His original sci-fi short becomes a flight of fantasy with an uneven pace.
Damon plays politician David Norris who gets quite the slap in the face when he doesn’t win an election to a senate seat. A chance encounter with a mysterious woman in the men’s room takes him out of his negative mood though, inspiring him to give the best speech of his career.
When he runs into the woman again, he gets her name – Elise (Blunt) and phone number – but then loses it. Now, before you say Serendipity, this is a film based on a short story by sci-fi author so cue the introduction of the guys in suits, the adjustment bureau.
They’re sort of like the angels from City of Angels, but sporting hats and not just watching, but literally adjusting the behaviour of people, according to some sort of plan written in their ever-present notebooks.
They keep on interfering in what could be a budding relationship between the free spirited, contemporary dancing Elise and the more uptight, but kind of intriguing with his hidden past David, who keep on running into each other. So, here’s the crux of the film: is it chance or is it fate that they keep on meeting and whatever happened to free will if the bureau keeps on interfering?
Setting the film in the now makes it that much harder to grapple with these concepts because you get fixated on the minutia of the love story because it’s in so ordinary a setting. Put that next to the grittyness of John Anderton’s existence in Minority Report and it’s kind of… whatever.
The suited adjustment bureau guys and their agenda just do not carry the heft of the shock of following the white rabbit in The Matrix and while they may have a grand old time running through doors – which they use as teleportation devices – it’s not quite Inception mind bending stuff.
Luckily you totally buy into David being fascinated by Elise, though it does feel like a bit too much like “Bourne in Manhattan” towards the end when David decides he simply has to find the chief manipulator and the film unravels to a rather twee ending.
Adam Freeland does for Sarah Vaugh’s Fever what Bill Conti did to Nina Simone’s Sinnerman in The Thomas Crowne Affair and Thomas Newman’s score is an absolute treat. He manages to create subtle menace and irony by turns, with lush symphonic sounds mixed in with the occasional romantic twinkly piano, lots of energetic guitars and the occasional dulcimer. While Newman maybe subtly references some of his 1980s energy, he never repeats any of his previous motifs, unlike some other composers who will remain unnamed.
Two time Oscar winning cinematographer John Toll takes us around some of the most architect- urally beautiful sites in Manhattan, creating a city that’s just a bit better looking than normal.
Treat it like a romance and it works, but the sci-fi angle just feels tacked on for lack of a better spanner to throw into the works.
If you liked ... Gattaca or Frequency ... you will like this.