Writer/director George Nolfi’s The Adjustment Bureau is neither fish nor fowl, but is engaging enough that it may find a second life on home video. Matt Damon stars as David Norris, a promising political figure who loses his shot at being in congress, but meets Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), who he immediately falls in love with and leads him to the best speech of his life. Nolfi adapted the Phillip K. Dick story into a fantasy love story, where Norris comes to see that there are things/people (including Anthony Mackie, John Slattery and Terrence Stamp) that control his fate. Our review of the Blu-ray of The Adjustment Bureau follows after the jump.
The film starts by showing that Damon’s Norris is known for his shining star-status, and his bad-boy persona (he celebrated winning being a representative by getting in a bar fight). Nolfi then stages two really tricky scenes back to back. Norris must meet Elise and fall in love, and then give one hell of a political speech. Fortunately, chemistry is chemistry, and Elise (and Blunt – who plays a variation on the manic pixie dream girl archetype) is sexy and charming enough to make their moment together the sort that would be hard to forget. Norris’s speech is practically impossible to write, so what you get of it is enough to make it seem like it could be memorable.
Cut to a couple years later and Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) has one assignment – make David Norris spill his coffee on himself before 7:05 AM. Norris is on the way to his new job, and Mitchell drops the ball. Not only does Norris get on his bus on time, there he runs into Elise again, and they fall back into their patter. He gets her number (on paper, which is weird but whatever) and heads up to the office where the adjustment bureau is working – having froze everyone in the office. This is where the film gets into sticky wickets on the powers of the supernatural forces, and how they work, etc. But Norris shows up and sees them scanning the people in his office, and is chased down by Richardson (John Slattery), who tells him that there are people (possibly angels) that control parts of humankind’s destiny, and they were there to change the mind of one man. But Norris cannot contact Elise, and more importantly he cannot tell anyone about seeing these angels or they will erase his mind.
Such is Norris’s dilemma, but Harry Mitchell tries to help and explain things a little bit. Doing a role that partly functions as exposition, it should be noted that Anthony Mackie is one of the finest actors working today. Cut to three years later and David is still taking the same bus every day in the hopes of seeing Elise. When he finally sees her, he tries talking to her, and their chemistry is still there. But The Adjustment Bureau wants to keep them apart.
If The Adjustment Bureau has a problem, it’s that Emily Blunt’s character is less developed than David’s, so she is appealing as a performer, but doesn’t get the dimensions of David, and there’s more interesting things going on with other performers. She does get to dance, but though the chemistry is there, she mostly is one dimensional. But the film gives this some credibility by suggesting that she and David are meant for each other (or were at one point), so that they fall quickly in love is not that much of a cheat.
That noted, the idea of making a romantic comedy, or a romance in general is difficult when there’s been so many variations over the years, and so using the constructs of a fantasy film to engage in ideas of free will and true love is enough to give this film a kick. Damon is great as the anchor, but it’s the bureau men that are most fun to watch.
I was hoping that – in the nature of these things – the Bureau’s mistakes would be revealed to be a part of a grander scheme of things that even they didn’t know they were being manipulated, but the end of the film banishes that notion from the film. Which I would find more interesting as the film dips its toes in the idea of predestination and man’s relationship to god. But those heady concepts take a back seat to magical doors in New York, which allows the film to show off its location shooting – and it’s great to see New York used in such a way. The movie was shot by John Toll, so it’s going to look gorgeous, and that helps. It’s an okay movie that has just enough going under the surface to linger. To be remembered as better than you’d think.
Universal’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. As the film is from 2011, the transfer is immaculate. Extras include a thoughtful commentary by writer/director George Nolfi, who talks about this as his first film, and the challenges therein. There’s also six deleted scenes (7 min.) that don’t add too much. “The Labyrinth of Doors: Interactive Map of New York” (34 min.) spotlights the locations in the movie, and has behind the scenes footage of their shooting, while “Leaping Through New York” (8 min.) also talks about shooting in the Big Apple. “Destined to Be” (5 min.) is the more standard walking through of the film, while Becoming Elise (7 min.) gives Blunt’s dance training the spotlight. The Blu-ray also comes with a DVD and digital copy of the film.