Review: The Adjustment Bureau (2011)


Have you ever wondered if life is a sequence of predetermined events? The Adjustment Bureau is a very convoluted yet intriguing take on this age old question and addresses the most popular component about fate and free will: love.

The film stars the talented Matt Damon as David Norris, a congressman running for a senate seat for the state of New York. His youth, honesty and charismatic appeal had him as the front runner until aspects of his past transgressions surface to make him an unfavourable candidate, which is apparent in outcome of the election. While nervously reciting his concession speech in the Men’s room, he candidly and awkwardly meets Elise (Emily Blunt). This interesting encounter was supposed to be an anecdote in the grandeur life of David. At least that is what we come to understand from the members of the secret, fedora wearing society known as The Adjustment Bureau. In the process of enforcing this quintessential aspect, Harry (Anthony Mackie), one of the super human members of The Bureau assigned to David, was unable to prevent him from catching the bus. Now this is where the film turns all Sliding Doors (1998). By catching the bus, David has projected himself on a tangent from what was written for him, his fate. On this bus he has his second encounter with Elise which irrevocably changes everything. David becomes a special case, forcing the bureau to present themselves and explain their existence and powers as a regulatory body for the Chairman, who one can assume is a reasonable facsimile to God. In the process they threaten David with the repercussions of seeing Elise as well as mentioning the Bureau’s existence to anyone. Three years later, to the muddlement of The Bureau, which only explains it as chance, David and Elise meet again. What follows is a game of psycho-philosophical chess with a catch me if you can bravado to control the pen of destiny.

As a fan of this philosophical abstract sub genre of sci-fi, I enjoyed how the film creates a contemporary institutionalized theology of life and existence. It has departments, a hierarchy, and a whole bureaucratic process. The film is a very light adaptation of the short story The Adjustment Team but you can definitely see the influence of films such as The Matrix (1999) and City of Angels (1998).

Despite all the heavy and complex layers portrayed in the film, the simple and overwhelming irrationality of love can be seen with the chemistry between David and Elise. Their relationship also explores the opportunity cost of love and ambition, raising the question of whether it is selfish or selfless, for them to be involved.

Matt Damon’s political fervor is apparent in his exceptional portrayal of a young congressman and Emily Blunt was convincing as a ballerina. However it is their remarkable affinity for each other that is most notable.

The Adjustment Bureau made a valiant attempt at being synonymous with the benchmarks of its sub genre, but it is rushed and the predictable final act requires further adjustments (perhaps in a Director’s Cut) to be so distinguished. However, the crisp special effects, the captivating performances of Damon and Blunt are well worth the cinematic experience.

[notification type=”star”]73/100 -The crisp special effects, the captivating performances of Damon and Blunt are well worth the cinematic experience.[/notification]


About Author

Films are far more than an escape for me, it is the most expressive medium of art. It contains many permutations and combination of possibilities and I like to examine it all with a fine tooth comb and see how well they bind together. So with much enthusiasm I share with you this keen interest.

  • Hamza Khan

    Great debut! Eagerly looking forward to more (and perhaps some debate between Chris and yourself haha). It’s nuanced, thoughtful and well-written reviews like this that keep me away from RT and keep me coming here. Good job (y)

  • Chris D. Misch

    Firstly, I just want to take the time and welcome Vakeesh to the Next Projection Team. As for ‘The Adjustment Bureau’, it was disappointing for me but still one of the better films of the year. That really doesn’t say much though, considering its competition thus far.

  • Chris D. Misch

    Oh, I’m sure some debate is likely to transpire. Especially, if we get on the topic of ‘Unstoppable’.

  • Anima Tamara

    Great first review and I agree with Hamza. I’d also love to see some debate between you and Chris! I think one of the most appealing things about Next Projection is that your reviews are not geared towards pretentious cinema geeks and that you keep it honest. Can’t wait to see more.

  • Vakeesh Velummylum

    Thanks guys, appreciate the support! Don’t worry guys, it wont be long before Chris and I go tit for tat on our film ideologies.

  • Chris D. Misch

    Looking forward to it!

  • Patrickwcchan

    good review.. vakeesh u captivated my heart

  • Nisha

    Salut Vakeesh! Tu as fais un très bon travail là, un très bon résumé, continue ainsi !