DVD Review: The Adjustment Bureau

PrintE-mail Written by Martyn Conterio Friday, 10 June 2011

DVD / Blu-ray Reviews

George Nolfi made his directorial debut with a tale of star-crossed lovers which blends in an inspired sci-fi thriller where a cosmic force known as The Adjustment Bureau attempt to guide and, if necessary, re-write history. Kudos to Nolfi for delivering an ambitious movie with so many different elements at play.

Although based on Philip K. Dick’s short story, Adjustment Team, there's virtually nothing of the great writer's premise involved. The reality-head-fuck scenario is definitely there, but not in the way we have seen in other films based on his novels and stories. What Nolfi does is t ake inspiration and runs with his own thing entirely.

Matt Damon stars as David Norris, an up and coming politician who always shoots his budding career in the foot at any given opportunity. He's running for the Senate but gets into a bar fight and later, in another scandal, exposed by the tabloid press for pulling a university reunion prank. Basically, his impulses get him the better of him.

On an ordinary New York day, David meets Elise (Emily Blunt) in the bathroom of a hotel just as he's about to give a key note speech. They immediately hit it off, sparks fly: big mistake. It was supposed to be a one off meeting but when the Adjustment Bureau fails in its task to knock David and Elise off course, all hell breaks loose.

So what is the Adjustment Bureau exactly and why are they in charge of manipulating lives on such a grand scale? It's fair to say they're not of this world. They're like the agents from The Matrix but a bit nicer and more like annoyed bureaucrats than the sinister muscle men of robotic overlords.

Nolfi injects some weight and depth into the nature of causality and free will, which makes this romance thriller a bit different from the usual fare. In case such talk puts you off there's a 'Philosophy for Dummies' voice-over.

Damon and Blunt make a great on-screen pair and this becomes one of the film's charms. You believe in their burgeoning relationship and wish them to succeed against the agents of fate and destiny. The Adjustment Bureau has some cool ingredients to make an unusual piece of science fiction before the third act overcooks the broth.

The third act divided critics and audiences upon the original theatrical release. But what’s wrong with letting them live their lives, happy together? Upon second viewing, Nolfi going against the cynical grain works well. The only issue is it becomes a tired chase and race against time, which we’ve seen a million times before.

The use of location shooting is another smart move on Nolfi’s part. The Adjustment Bureau captures New York as a thriving metropolis of millions. John Toll’s cinematography is nothing short of stunning. Realistic scenes allow the fantasy elements to stand out when strange things unfold. We are given a recognisable world of glass and steel but office spaces and baseball parks provide an unlikely setting for a variety of weird, reality-bending moments.

Directed with confidence and style, acted brilliantly, The Adjustment Bureau only lets itself down in the final third when things should be tense and frightening instead of run of the mill.

The bonus material includes a so-so selection of deleted and extended scenes. It’s obvious why they were excised from the final cut as they don’t really add up to much. Some of them barely run for a minute in length. One of the better scenes is a slightly extended dialogue scene in which Terrence Stamp’s agent explains the world to David and his lack of choice and free will.

Three featurettes offer a look at Emily Blunt’s dance training, a very short making of and the best of the trio focuses on the location shooting. The commentary track by George Nolfi is interesting to a point but there's far too much 'I really like this moment' and 'I really like this actor'. He does go a lot into character motivation and the approach he took in general. Although not as iconic as Blade Runner or Total Recall this movie is way better than the likes of Impostor, Next and Paycheck by a long mile. It's a classy romantic thriller with a sci-fi edge.

Agree? Disagree? Your rating...

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The Adjustment Bureau is released on Blu-ray and DVD Monday 4th July

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0 #1 Matt Tender 2011-06-12 10:29
I agree. a great movie. was surprised cos i don't really like Dick novels, not even Electric Sheep. this was just good fun.

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