‘Adjustment Bureau’ has fate on its side

Justin Marietti

The moment I saw the trailer for “The Adjustment Bureau,” I wanted to see it. In a strange way, it reminded me of “Inception,” which I consider to be the best film of 2010, and one of the most interesting movies of all time. Then, I saw a review on TV which referred to “The Adjustment Bureau” as being even “more thought-provoking than Inception.” I knew this had to be put to the test.

The movie is loosely based on a short story by Philip K. Dick titled “The Adjustment Team.” Dick’s work has lent itself to a number of other Sci-Fi movies, including “A Scanner Darkly,” “Minority Report,” “Next,” and many more. He seems to be the go-to guy whenever Hollywood wants to put something out that doesn’t look and feel just like every other movie.

George Nolfi makes his directorial debut in this supernatural romantic thriller that pits fate against free will. Matt Damon plays David Norris, a popular politician who is leading the chase to become the next senator of New York before the paparazzi ruin his chances with some embarrassing photos from his college days.

As Norris is practicing his concession speech in the men’s bathroom, he believes he is alone. However, up-and-coming dancer Elise Sellis (Emily Blunt) hides in one of the stalls after attempting to crash a wedding at the hotel. The two cross paths, and she inspires him to give a completely improvised speech, saving his political career.

According to the “chairman,” the man who decides all of humanity’s fate, this was to be the only time these two ever cross paths. However, random chance gives them another opportunity three years later when they meet on a bus. This is when the adjustment bureau steps in, attempting to correct the error and put Norris back on the right path again.

At first, I thought this would be very difficult to pull off; if there are too many loose ends, the viewer may wonder how all of humanity isn’t aware of these so-called angels watching over all of us. However, the details of how the whole thing works are revealed as the film goes on, much like we see with “Inception,” only on a much simpler scale.

Norris shows great conviction to Sellis, and the bureau needs to make some adjustments. When Norris stumbles upon some of these men making alterations to the people in his office, they have no choice but to brief him on what he has seen. He is warned that if he mentions what he has seen or tries to contact her again, he would basically be lobotomized.

From here, the story builds tension as Norris reveals his unwavering persistence to Sellis. “I don’t care what you put in my way, I’m not giving up,” he says. The developing love story between these two characters takes precedence over other themes in the film, and all of the bureau’s actions are simply repercussions of it. That makes this an ideal date movie. What girl wouldn’t want a guy who loves her so much he’s willing to risk having his mind erased?

One review I read claimed that the viewer is never left feeling uncomfortable. I couldn’t disagree more. A major part of why this movie is so thought-provoking is the viewer is left to ponder what they could possibly do if they were in Norris’s shoes. I was constantly wondering what choice he really had other than to just leave the situation alone, but he never did. I have a hard time putting this on the same pedestal as “Inception,” but there is no question that it makes you think long and hard about the role of fate in our lives.

I also found the pace of this film to be steady throughout, and that’s a difficult feat for any first-time director. Especially considering the type of movie, I think a solid pace is important so the viewer’s emotions do not flicker or fade. Overall, I definitely recommend this movie. I can confidently say “The Adjustment Bureau” is the best film of 2011 so far.