Friday, March 11, 2011

Quick Look: THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU

Screenwriter George Nolfi, who has worked on a couple of superb genre films, namely The Bourne Ultimatum and Ocean’s Twelve, makes his directorial debut with The Adjustment Bureau, a film that casts such a fragile spell that it could be easy to dismiss. After all, this is a movie that unashamedly declares itself to be about true love, free will, and destiny. Furthermore, it posits that Fate is controlled by a group of dapper men (in fedoras!) that takes orders from a mysterious “Chairman.” It’s a sincere romance with a light touch of sci-fi that’s perpetually poised on the brink of silliness, but it never quite topples over. I found it to be an involving film of modest charms. Matt Damon is an ambitious politician who has just lost his race for the U.S. Senate when he has a chance encounter with an alluring stranger, played by the lovely Emily Blunt. In this brief scene, Damon and Blunt set off crackling sparks of flirtation during their brief moment together. She’s a rising star in the dance scene. He’s an established politician. Their conversation is part debate, part duet. When they meet again the next day, the Adjustment Bureau (with members including Mad Men’s John Slattery, the underappreciated Anthony Mackie, and the distinguished, grave Terence Stamp) steps in. You see, this couple may have fallen instantly in love, but they aren’t meant to be together. When Damon stumbles upon the Bureau at work, they eventually let him in on the secret: if he sees that woman again, both of their dreams die. The movie’s plot unfolds as a romance with a rattling tinge of paranoia with crisp cinematography from the great John Toll. Damon and Blunt are charming, and the sight of noir heavies walking into a modern political romance tickled me. I also found myself enjoying the exploration of the notions of predetermination and free will, even though the ending feels like a cop out and the Bureau ends up being never more than vaguely menacing ciphers. Ultimately, disappointingly, it feels thoroughly disposable, with plenty of loose ends twisting in the breeze, but it’s also a comfortable way to pass the time with a little bit of romantic, philosophical, earnest sci-fi goofiness.

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