The Adjustment Bureau is not quite a great movie. It poses some interesting questions, but spends more time ignoring them than exploring them. It takes an intriguing sci-fi concept, much like those found in The Matrix and Inception, but does not make that the true focus of the film. Inception is an unfortunately apt comparison, because it also uses a science fiction concept to tell another type of story. In Inception it was a heist movie, in The Adjustment Bureau it is a romance. The comparison to Inception is unfortunate because it ties the two genres together better than the Adjustment Bureau does.
Matt Damon plays David Norris, a congressman and prospective Senator whose recent flub, mooning people at his college reunion, has seemingly cost him the election. While preparing a concession speech, he meets Elise (Emily Blunt) whose more relaxed attitude rubs off on David and his speech. The relaxed speech makes him the front-runner for the next election. At the same time, mysterious chapeau’d men cryptically talk about all their hard work. A mistake made by one of the men soon after allows Damon’s character to discover about the Adjustors, a Guardian Angel like group who influence people into doing what their plans deem best.
These Adjustors show both the films strengths and it flaws. While there may be sinister undertones, the Adjustors are simply unassuming bureaucrats. The movie poses a question about free will, but it keeps everything so low key that it never really capitalizes on the issue. The philosophical issues are largely ignored. It leaves the film entertaining but ultimately forgettable. Whether or not people have free will is not really questioned, merely how free it is. The Adjustors claim to have no sinister motive and this is accepted. David does not seem to be troubled by their control, except in one regard. David loves Elise, but the plan says they are not to be together. His struggle to have a relationship with her is the conflict of the movie. Fortunately, the romance is entirely believable. It seems right to the viewer that they be together. Everything David does, as this is much more his story than hers, makes sense. Other than believe what he is told by shadowy controllers.
The different elements of the movie, the sci-fi and the romance, each work well, but they do not tie together very effectively. It is frustrating that the grander implications are ignored, but the movie is still entertaining. The Adjustment Bureau is a small movie. Well-made and thoughtful, but almost too restrained. There is, though, a certain amount of charm in The Adjustment Bureau’s restraint.
3 1/2 Stars