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The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau
Sunday March 13th, 2011


The Adjustment Bureau is based on legendary science fiction author Philip K Dick's 1954 short story The Adjustment Team. This story is similar to The Matrix and Total Recall (also based on a Philip K. Dick story) in exploring the twin themes of the world as fantasy projection and the illusion of free will. In The Matrix the protagonist discovers that his consciousness has been living inside a giant computer simulation. In Total Recall reality is a dream manufactured by a virtual amusement company. In The Adjustment Bureau control is wielded by a mysterious entity referred to as "The Chairman" who employs an army of agents to keep things going smoothly according to some prescribed plan that he alone truly understands.

Screenwriter George Nolfi who also directed gives Dick's short story the Hollywood treatment with glamorous characters, romance and chases. But he also gives us a compelling metaphor for theology and a battleground where free will and predestination clash for supremacy.

Matt Damon is David Norris, a political maverick who finds himself drawn to a woman, Elise Sellas, played by Emily Blunt whom he accidentally meets the night he loses a Senate election. But was it accidental? She inspires him to give a great concession speech which positions him for a future run. When they have another accidental encounter on a bus it appears they're meant for each other. Or are they? When Norris sees something he isn't supposed to see he is suddenly thrust into a world of fedora capped undercover types who tell him he has nothing to fear so long as he doesn't try and reveal their existence and he doesn't attempt to see Elise again.

There are good performances by Damon and Blunt. The supporting cast is good also with Anthony Mackie, Michael Kelly, John Slattery and Terence Stamp who brings great authority and presence to his role here as he did playing General Zod in Superman II. Reportedly cinematographer John Toll employed some clever camerawork alternating between formal shots and hand held cameras to contrast the power of the Adjustment Bureau with the yearning for independence felt by David and Elise.