Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp, John Slattery, Anthony Mackie, Michael Kelly
Director: George Nolfi
Writer(s): George Nolfi, Philip K. Dick (novel)
Cinematography: John Toll
Original Score: Thomas Newman
In order for a film to work, certainly in the case of a thriller anyway, something needs to be at stake. usually it is someones life whether it be the central characters or a loved one related to that central character, on the basis of Inception and now this there is something much more poignant that can be at stake and in using something other than the clichéd premise we have become accustomed to original and ultimately great films are becoming more common, something we can all be grateful for. The comparisons have been drawn by all and sundry but there are echoes of last years thinking mans blockbuster (a certain dream based thrill ride) but fortunately for us this is simply a film riding on the coat-tails of cinematic wunderkind Nolan, instead The Adjustment Bureau is as different from Inception (or Bourne which is also name-checked on posters) as can be, tapping other avenues in search of a gripping and extremely involving tale.
To reveal too much of the plot really would rob you of many of the revelations. they aren’t revelations in a big reveal/twist sense rather they are details of a very clever over-arching plot that chooses to unfurl before our eyes rather than sign post each step of the journey as is expected of a run-of-the-mill film (this weeks Unknown being a perfect example of that all too stale format). Opening with our focus on the relatively young prospective Senator of New York, David Norris (Damon) we soon learn that he had a tragic childhood losing his brother and both parents, he isn’t traumatised in the traditional sense of the word rather effected in other ways, ways which do not see the film bogged dow with a morose tone. Into David’s life, on three seemingly random occasions, is Emily Blunt’s Elise…but all is not as it seems and as a group of men in hats ominously watch over David seemingly intent on keeping him from Elise the plot thickens with some potentially disturbing truths…
Given this is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick you would expect a possible sense of dread, and almost certainly a number of existential questions posed. The Adjustment Bureau has both of these things though the former is downplayed so that the tone is kept light, yet oddly more uneasy for it, not uneasy in a way that is detrimental to the film but rather adds hugely to the unique atmosphere. Really I can safely say I’ve never seemn a film like it, defying pigeon-holing and the trappings of the usual genre conventions everything is underplayed to perfection. Theres a chase scene that is clever yet not showy, exciting but not overblown, the usual interrogation scenes are given an interesting shake-up and then there is the burgeoning romance.
Emily Blunt is good, we know this from her roster of past performances and Damon is really on fire lately, not in a big showy film star way (he had that down-pat years ago) rather he seems one of the few actors able to turn his hand to any material and excel, Invictus, Hereafter, True Grit, Green Zone, and that’s only the last year…each role as different as the next and every one nuanced and very likeable, now we can add The Adjustment Bureau to that, David Norris is a likeable guy but there are subtle layers underneath, though it is in the scenes with Blunt that the film really lights up. Very few onscreen romances are this convincing, the chemistry is so involving you will be rooting for a happy ending throughout…is this the years most romantic film on top of everything else? It might just be!
Just to top of the enjoyment are a plethora of supporting turns that seem cast to perfection, Anthony Mackie is spot on as are Mad Men’s John Slattery and the ever reliable Terence Stamp, who are the men they play is the key to unfurling the goings on in the film, Stamp’s character reveals a bigger plot that helps give weight to the more personal drama and emotion. It really proves hard to pinpoint exactly what is so good about The Adjustment Bureau but sometimes originality is all it takes though all the other elements seem to be the icing on the cake…and I haven’t even mentioned the ending, truly feel good I’d say.
The Adjustment Bureau defies categorisation, it is as romantic a film as you will likely see all year, it has big ideas that are underplayed to perfection and grips with a thoroughly involving and thoughtful plot…it all just fits together so well, this isn’t showy cinema but as solid and involving as we could hope for, thilling, gripping and fun in the moment whilst remaining in your thoughts long after.