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Wednesday, May 25, 2011  

M. Ovie Reviews: The Adjustment Bureau

On Saturday night, when the world failed to end on schedule as it always does, I went to see The Adjustment Bureau. Everyone was still on earth and The Adjustment Bureau was still in theaters. It was a night of unexpected wonders.

I actually liked it more than I expected to. You're probably familiar with the premise: an everyman shoo-in New York senatorial candidate played by Matt Damon runs afoul of behatted agents of varying sinisterness, who are bent on keeping him from dating Emily Blunt. Most of us don't require shadowy figures with mysterious agendas to prevent us from dating Emily Blunt, so maybe Matt Damon isn't such an everyman after all.

The film is at its best when it keeps things mysterious. It has an unfortunate tendency to overexplain things here and there, especially at the end, but it does so in a way that still allows the story to hold together. It's surprisingly tight, considering that much of it is built on the conceit of how little we really know. At some point, it becomes rather an interesting discussion about the tension between free will and predestination, although in the world of the film, predestination takes the form of the "Plan," a word you can almost hear capitalized every time someone says it. Obviously we know which side is going to win, this being a Hollywood movie and all. There's even a pivotal decision made at the literal base of the Statue of Liberty. I think that's only because they couldn't set that scene on her actual nose.

The Plan is illustrated by icons representing people that move across the pages of animated books. Which is a little anachronistic. After all, aside from the ubiquitous hats that the Adjustment Bureaucrats are always wearing, they seem to do a pretty good job of keeping their look updated. Shouldn't they have iPads by now?

I can't complain over how quickly it moves, though. Not only do Matt Damon and Emily Blunt fall in love faster than any couple ever, even in the movies, but we get to proceed from the introduction of the Adjustment Bureaucrats to their complete explication in less than two hours. Compare that to the Observers on Fringe.

Now, as for that free will vs. Plan question, the film does hint at some interesting things about how sometimes seemingly chance events are deliberately triggered by Adjustment Bureaucrats as part of the Plan. Any movie like this has to make you speculate, "Wow, what if that's true?" Unfortunately, given all the stars that have to align for any feature film to be made, it's obvious that isn't the case. There are too many places where the fiercely secretive Adjustment Bureau, if it existed, could have easily sabotaged the whole thing in order to keep their secret.

The biggest twist was in the closing credits: only one milliner on the whole crew! Still, you may never look at people in hats the same way again.

posted by M. Giant 11:14 AM 0 comments


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