The Adjustment Bureau: Playing Around With Fate
By Sumaya Samarasinghe
Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau is a light, fast-paced film which focuses on issues of religion, fate, love and free will.
Matt Damon stars as David Norris, a young congressman who sees his popularity poll go down the drain after photos of a drunken binge appear in the papers. It’s been a while since Damon has played a likeable, vulnerable lead. He is one of the most talented actors of his generation, and despite flawless career making decisions, seeing him in semi super hero roles mainly surrounded by male co-stars, was getting boring.
In The Adjustment Bureau, Damon is all but macho. While rehearsing his speech in the bathrooms of the Waldorf Hotel, he meets Elise, a modern dancer (Emily Blunt) who is hiding in the men’s toilets. The two begin to talk, they connect easily, share a kiss and part. Inspired by his meeting, David makes a brilliant speech and his political career is back on track.
But a mysterious group of men wearing 50’s 60’s style hats seem rather displeased with this meeting and plan to mess up Elise and David’s second encounter. Fate comes into play and the man given the task of ensuring David spills coffee on his shirt at precisely 7:05 a.m., falls asleep on a bench while David boards the same bus as Elise. Their second ‘date’ on the bus proves better than the one in the bathroom. They flirt, laugh with each other – and it has been a long time since true romance has been depicted so well in a feature film. The viewers find themselves really wanting it to work between them, despite the hurdles thrown their way by the strange hat-wearing men.
When David makes it to work early (since he did not have to go home and change a coffee stained shirt), he walks into a conference room to find his boss and campaign manager with frozen looks while being examined by strange looking men in masks and body suits. They chase David around, he is eventually caught and taken into a warehouse where Richardson (John Slattery, who uses the same wardrobe as in Mad Men) explains to him that they form part of a group called The Adjustment Bureau, who have the power to mess around with one’s destiny. And they receive orders from ‘The Chairman’. David is then ordered to not attempt any further contact with Elise and will be ‘reset’ (memory erased, in other words lobotomized) if he mentions the existence of the bureau to anyone.
Sounds familiar? The angels referred to as ‘caseworkers’ look like male models from a glossy 50’s fashion magazine. Most are cold, unemotional, and particularly annoyed at David’s refusal to bow to their orders. When David questions his right to decide on what is best for him, the Bureau sends Thompson (played by an icy Terrence Stamp) to take over the case. He explains to David that if he and Elise stay together, their careers as future President of The United States and world-famous choreographer (respectively) would be compromised. Thompson uses his powers to cause Elise a fall on stage after having instilled doubt in David’s mind. After taking her to the hospital, David is reassured to hear that she is only suffering a bad sprain and he abandons her to a brighter, but lonelier future.
David, whose political career is booming, reads about Elise’s imminent marriage to her ex boyfriend.
Harry, David’s caseworker comes back on the scene when he realizes how unhappy David is. He teaches him how to use mysterious doors used by the Bureau members and lends him his hat (to give him the power to do so without being noticed by the adjustment team).
Take Inception: The Adjustment Bureau is a lighter, easier and way more romantic a version if somewhat similar in themes.
The end of this film, which takes place on a rooftop, was apparently re-shot and in the initial version, the Chairman appears in the form of a woman. Sadly, this ending and the only factor which could have avoided the gender imbalance in the angels’ squad, has been cut! Instead we have some very open-ended possibilities on who this God-like Chairman could be.
As for faith and destiny, no angels or caseworkers in the world seem to be able to control that one. When it is meant to be, it will be. George Nolfi has made an utterly enjoyable movie (though New York has been given a somewhat Gotham city look). But after an age we have a movie where no urges to make a cup of coffee to stay awake, nor slide a finger on the fast forward button arise.
The Adjustment Bureau is nothing deep nor unforgettable but it still provides good solid entertainment with a great cast.This in itself isn’t such a bad achievement.