It is said that each man is the architect of his own fate as he dreams of his destiny, without fear and yearns to make it a reality for when the time is right. However, we are guided through life with the notion that we have our own decisions to make, tinkering with the thought of choices and freewill. But is freewill a misconception? Is our fate already predetermined?
George Nolfi’s directorial debut The Adjustment Bureau dabbles with the concept that there is only an appearance of freewill and that all of life’s major choices are predetermined by a higher authority and the path they’ve chosen for us. Nolfi, who also wrote the screenplay loosely based on Phillip K. Dick’s short story, “The Adjustment Team”, dives deep into the age old debate of freewill vs. fate with a fresh spin on the philosophies of life and theology, with regards to fate, destiny, chance and the greater picture of our very being.
The Adjustment Bureau isn’t your average film. Not only does it allow you to think for yourself but it’s got the simple basis of an affecting love story between two people who just mesh well and would fight the world to be together because of a certain four-letter word: love.
The film follows David Norris (Matt Damon), a politician running for Senate in New York City. On the night of a humbling defeat, the young politician with promise meets the woman of his dreams, Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt). Their first encounter is a charming one and the pair is immediately attracted to one another. There’s even a point when David’s so baffled at their instant chemistry and asks Elise, “Do I know you?” because they just work so well together and have that direct connection. Unbeknownst to Elise and David though, everyone has a predetermined destiny and the major premise of this love story is the fact that these two are not supposed to fall in love. Harry (Anthony Mackie) is to make sure of it one morning but falls flat of his orders and once again, David and Elise meet on the bus and have a charming conversation where Elise gives David her phone number.
When David walks into work that morning on “adjustments” being made by strange men led by Richardson (John Slattery) to his co-workers, he finds himself trapped in a world that sounds too complex to be real. The strange men in fedoras and sharp suits are known to some as angels but formally known as “caseworkers” for the Adjustment Bureau who work for “The Chairman”. The Adjustment Bureau is an unknown labyrinth type governing department that controls the directions of our lives and their job is to make certain that you follow the path in life that is set out of you with reference to their notebooks that have an ever-changing blueprint in them. The team resorts to intimidation and threats to make sure their message for David, that she is not part of his plan, loud and clear despite not knowing the reason why. However, David’s passion for Elise isn’t disregarded so easily so when he decides to go against his predetermined fate to further pursue her, it throws his path off course causing the Adjustment Bureau to take measures into their own hands and restore order in whichever way they can.
George Nolfi who penned the screenplays for The Bourne Ultimatum and Ocean’s 12 has written brilliant dialogue for this film. The words exchanged between David and Elise is amiable and naturally written, blending a highschool-type playfulness of infatuation with the innate comfort of two people who undeniably get along and naturally, belong together while the talk of life, fate and destiny with an understanding philosophy between Harry and David is thought-provoking.
The performances in The Adjustment Bureau are all well played out too. Damon and Blunt are great and really shine through as a believable couple. Their chemistry is unfaltering and you can see it in the way the two converse and exchange glances that are playful, quick-witted and disbelieving. Damon brings a great vulnerability to his character and it’s surprising to see such range because he does it flawlessly as it’s not something we’re accustomed to in his filmography. Blunt is charismatic and plays Elise most engagingly, making you feel what she feels with the push and pull of her relationship with David. Slattery as Richardson is a tyrant but it works well for his no-nonsense attitude and bluntness. Harry on the other hand, played by Anthony Mackie has heart and you can sense it in the dialogue spoken between him and Damon. He genuinely feels for the characters and finds his best to relate to them.
The film is far more interesting and intricate than the trailers have shown and could very well be a cult-classic in the years to come. It’s got that science-fiction aspect bordering a genuine Phillip K. Dick experience and an old-Hollywood desire touching slightly on the notion that two honest strangers, with the help of fate and chance could fall in love instantly during an awkward first acquaintance in an empty restroom. It’s also in major part to Nolfi’s dialogue and the actors who are fine thespians in their own right and allow you to see that authentic affection which blossoms naturally between two people who get along on every scope and body language. The Adjustment Bureau is in no way a cheesy love story but rather the journey of a man who fights for what he believes in and knows works well. David has simply met the woman of his dreams and would risk the bright future that has been revealed to him and his life, just to be with her and won’t let anyone get in his way. If that isn’t romantic, what is?
The Adjustment Bureau is a strong mystifying tale that’s cleverly made and has genuine heart. It’s a unique stylish thriller that combines science fiction, philosophy, romance and a Hitchcockian intrigue with remarkable simplicity. It’ll have you choosing fate over the plan.
Stars: * * * * ½ of 5
The Adjustment Bureau is now in theatres.
Production: Universal Pictures
Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, Terrence Stamp and John Slattery
Directed/Written/Produced by: George Nolfi
Running Time: 96 minutes
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and violence.
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