Premiering this weekend on HBO was this January’s “The Adjustment Bureau”, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.
Based on a short story by famed science fiction author Phillip K Dick, “The Adjustment Bureau” is the tale of a young congressman, played by Matt Damon, who gets crushed in his run for the Senate. The night of his defeat, however, he runs into a free-spirited young woman and falls in love at first sight.
Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t in “the plans”.
Soon after his election night defeat, Damon’s character is heading into his office in the morning. On the bus ride in, he once again runs into the woman he met the night he lost the election. Unfortunately for him, he “wasn’t supposed to.” His path was supposed to be “adjusted”. He arrives to his offices earlier than expected (he was supposed to be delayed) and walks in on a team of suited individuals… conducting some sort of procedure on the people he works with.
He’s walked in on “The Adjustment Bureau” in operation.
The Adjustment Bureau, he is soon told, is responsible for course correcting people in order to guide events on the grander scale. Carrying notebooks which map out trouble spots based on probability permutations, able to open doors like a real world game of portal, and gifted with the ability to create minor events (such as telekinetically spilling a cup of coffee on someone), the Adjustment Bureau tries to ensure events unfold according to “the plan”. Due to some fictitious bureaucratic regulation, the Adjustment Bureau can’t just wipe Damon’s memory clean, so instead, they come clean with him, explaining their “business” to an extent, and explaining to him that if he ever reveals their existence to others, they’ll be forced to mind wipe him.
Since his second chance encounter with his dream girl wasn’t supposed to have happened, the Adjustment Bureau tries their best to part the two of them. Damon, who is aware of their existence now, refuses to be dissuaded and pushes through every minor obstacle thrown in his path. He doggedly pursues her, and when the two are together, it seems that they are genuinely in love… That they were meant to be together. What unfolds is a case of star-crossed lovers battling the odds. Except in this case the odds ARE truly stacked against them.
And that’s the movie’s main asset – the romance between Damon and Blunt. They both play off of each other very well, and have some fun, flirtatious chemistry. Especially early on.
Unfortunately, the movie is awash in exposition, and most of it revolves around explaining a fictional bureaucracy which controls the course of human events in a deterministic fashion. There’s near endless references to “the plan” and “quotas”. They spend a lot of time setting up the rules. Essentially the movie is a fictional debate between determinism and free will, with a healthy dose of “the power of love”. Which is a wonderful discussion, only, when presented so overtly, it’s not very interesting. Especially when it’s wrapped in quasi-business jargon and presented dispassionately.
In the end, I just can’t recommend it very highly. It holds some value, it was mildly entertaining, but really not all that much.