Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau

In the spirit of good writing I am going to spoil parts of this movie for you. I realized on my first draft of the review that much like the show LOST, you can not fully converse about the movie without spoiling details for others. So, here is my fair warning that if you want absolute surprise when you see the film, look away now. I won’t spoil the whole thing if you want to take a “chance”.

This film is like LOST in more ways than one. First and foremost is the relationship between David Norris and Elise. Their strong bond of a couple against all odds reminded me of Desmond and Penny fighting through time and space to get to each other, well time anyway. Their love had no limit and neither does the love of David and Elise. Love is strong, but perhaps fate is stronger. The Adjustment Bureau focuses on the human emotion while being adapted from Science fiction guru Philip K. Dick’s short story, Adjustment Team. David Norris (Matt Damon) is a strong political figure with a bright future ahead of him. However, after a bad election, he heads to the men’s room where he goes to prepare his conceding speech and meets Elise (Emily Blunt) hiding out from authorities for crashing a wedding. They hit it off immediately, and the chemistry absolutely leaps off the screen. But she dashes away to escape being thrown in jail and he is left with only having a kiss and never knowing her name.

The second way in which The Adjustment Bureau is a lot like LOST is because the more answers we were given, the more questions we had. The adjusters are a team of men that wear hats in order to intercept certain plans from happening to keep others on their destined paths. I was highly intrigued with the process of this world and what they were up to, but almost immediately, we learn from one of the men involved dropping strong hints to David that most of it is just due to divine intervention. Now, he never says those words, but there was a lot of words thrown around like the man upstairs, or the chairman, angels and watching over everyone. The rest of the film, almost tries to eat those words said as they try to be very subtle about the meaning of the adjusters and who they work for and what exactly they do. There were still small hints though and it kind of became a huge speed bump for me. I would have rather had an introduction of sorts that let us know that this was an alternate world, but at the same time, that’s exactly what I enjoyed about it. The fact that they simply introduce this as present day, this could be happening now. Don’t trust a man in a hat, doesn’t matter what type of hat, they could be an adjuster waiting to correct your moves.

This leads to my next conundrum: They control our moves in life to keep us on the plans we have laid out for us. First of all, it was kind of funny that their power was all in the hats. But if they have it all planned out, why do anything at all? Especially if they can just change things around so you are still on their path. David was told by the adjusters that he is not supposed to be with Elise, he has a greater plan: becoming a president possibly. If he were to stay with her, he wouldn’t strive for that and she would not reach her goals either, but all we need is love, right? I’m just left thinking that “divine intervention” doesn’t plan for love and happiness, it only plans for success of a nation. That just seems like nonsense to me. There’s also this thing called “chance” that keeps occurring in the film. Chance is not up to the adjusters or The Chairman upstairs, but just irrelevant happenstances that change paths all the time. It was through chance that Elise and David kept meeting, but chance could have also been due to the grossly understaffed adjustment team. There were only a few of them and yet, they run the world. The chance that lead to David and Elise bumping into each other on the bus was due to Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie), an adjuster, falling asleep on the job. He is also the one leaking all the juicy secrets to David.

See, the problem I had with the story having a shadow of “divinity” over it the whole time was because it shows favoritism. If I was driving home one night and decided on a whim to take the back road home and find out that there was a huge pile up on the highway I could have been on, some would think that I’ve been saved. But what about all those other people? If the adjusters were the ones to change my mind in which way to drive, why didn’t they just change a few people in the accident’s minds, causing the accident to have never happened?

David challenges this theory too with free will. The adjusters claim there is no free will, but David knows what he wants and isn’t about to give up because some old men in cool hats tell him so. He makes a run for it. Together, Damon and Blunt pull off some simple, but exciting action in the later half of the film. The direction was clear, not so much of that shaky cam which has become so popular lately. I liked being able to focus my eyes on the screen and see them take off, while also being able to see where they are, generally.

The special effects were nice too. Each time an adjuster went through a door, it would lead to a different part of town, like secret passages for small amounts of time travel. I wish I had those hats now. There were quite a few leading men wearing those hats too. Anthony Mackie was a lower lever adjuster that met with David often, John Slattery played Richardson. You think he’s in control until you hear about a man above him recommending they get Thompson (Terrence Stamp) aka “The Hammer” to end this charade once and for all. Yeah, I don’t know what The Hammer really means, besides that he gets the job done.

Overall, it was a great movie for the conversations you can have afterward. The love story really is the greatest part of this film, but the action and science fiction twists will keep anyone from getting bored. If nothing else, it sure makes the fedora look bad ass again.

I give The Adjustment Bureau or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Men in Hats 4 “fedoras” out of 5

by Angela Davis

About Angela

Angela is the Editor-in-Chief of Lost in Reviews. She and Ryan created Lost in Reviews together in 2009 out of a mutual hatred for all the stodgy old farts currently writing film reviews. Since launching the site, Angela has enjoyed reviewing indie films over all other films, picking up new music from all corners of the world and photographing live shows. She is the co-host of Blu Monday and a member of the Kansas City Film Critic Circle.

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