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Zach Manges
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Thriller starts off strong but takes a goofy turn
April 16, 2011

Directed by: George Nolfi
Release date: 2011
Length: 105 minutes
Rating: PG-13

The Adjustment Bureau is a romantic science-fiction film that tries its best to appear smart and philosophical, but ultimately it deteriorates into an earnest yet unsuccessful shell of what it sets out to be.

This is the story of David Norris, a man with a disreputable past who is running for Senate. After a scandal, he suddenly loses his huge lead and appears destined to lose the election. However, an encounter with a beautiful young woman in a hotel causes David to have a more honest approach to his political career.

Things go a little haywire, though, when David accidentally stumbles upon The Adjustment Bureau, a group of powerful immortal beings who move unseen in the world, altering reality according to the whims of the mysterious Chairman. Upon finding them, David is told that he has hit a snag in his intended path, and he must be sure to never meet the woman, with whom he has fallen in love, ever again. This is where the movie really begins, as David goes on a frantic race to escape his fate and find the woman before the Bureau destroys his life forever.

I found myself impressed with the acting almost across the board. Matt Damon — a  favorite performer of mine — is very convincing in the role of David.  Emily Blunt, the mysterious woman, exudes charm and is very likeable. The developing romance between the pair is particularly palpable. Obviously, this is a critical facet of the movie, and because it’s so strong, the movie is saved from total mediocrity. The villainous Adjustment Bureau, of which Terrence Stamp is the primary member, is convincing enough. Stamp knows how to deliver lines with such seriousness and terrifying confidence that I ate up every abjectly ridiculous sci-fi concept he spouted.

Unfortunately, all of the actors are too good for the movie, which is failed by an uneven script. The events taking place are easy enough to follow, and the movie takes a slow yet determined pace during the opening act, doling out little pieces of information at regular intervals.  However, about midway through, there’s a distinct tone shift that felt uncomfortably jarring to me.

Early on, the Bureau appears omniscient and self-assured, making strategic moves three steps ahead of David at all times. About midway, though, they suddenly turn into a bunch of incompetent madcaps, dashing around from location to location, cursing under their immortal breaths at their constant failure to stop David in his romantic mission. In fact, I found myself a bit irked, because I much preferred to view them as the all-powerful team of demigods they were at the beginning of the film.

The movie really began to get on my nerves during the final act, when David and his finally found love go on a crazy crosstown chase, after David acquires the Bureau’s ability to teleport. The film devolves into the absurd and becomes hard to follow, as too many plot developments are jammed ham-handedly into scenes of the couple running for their lives. The final climactic moments arrive without warning and are over before you can finish blinking, and it’s here that the movie overreaches its scope the most.

Essentially, the moviegoer is force-fed some preachy ideas about free will vs. fate, which I would have no problem with if the movie hadn’t already spent half a dozen scenes explicitly getting these same ideas across. It’s repetitive and insulting, as I’d much prefer having a little sci-fi lore left to contemplate on my own.

In closing, this is a film that bites off just a bit more than it can chew, and then doesn’t know what to do with the leftovers. I have to give some serious props to the talented and hard-working cast, who single-handedly save this movie from utter failure with just a little help from the intriguing premise.  Nevertheless, the serious plot transgressions about 30 minutes into the movie are difficult to forgive, which make The Adjustment Bureau a cut below average. I’d give it a 4 out of 10.

Copyright 2011 Y-Press


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