Matt Damon and Emily Blunt encounter enemies in The Adjustment Bureau.

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt encounter enemies in The Adjustment Bureau.

Thriller needs little adjusting

  • Mar. 13, 2011 4:00 p.m.

The Adjustment Bureau isn’t the kind of sci-fi effort that will cause your jaw to go thump, but it is an enormously entertaining flick.

Maybe it’s not the most intelligent movie out there, but –– for the moment, anyway –– it’s the coolest. And I don’t know about you, but I like cool.

Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick (he’s the mind behind features like Blade Runner and Minority Report), The Adjustment Bureau poses an awfully good question: Can we force the hand of future with our own actions, or is our fate pre-determined? It attacks it with a delicious stew of genres.

While it can often be dangerous to mingle so many flavours, rookie director George Nolfi has success with this one. The Adjustment Bureau throws everything from The Manchurian Candidate to The Truman Show and even a little Serendipity-like romance at the screen… and lo and behold, most of it sticks.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt matters when a guy as capable as Matt Damon is carrying the ball.

Damon plays David Norris, the youngest man ever elected to the U.S. Congress, whose bid for the senate abruptly bottoms out when some mischievous old demons from his college days surface with the press.

Defeated, he does enjoy a chance encounter with a beautiful ballet dancer, Elise (Emily Blunt), who instantly captures David’s heart. Then, she disappears.

Again, by sheer fluke, David meets Elise on the bus the very next day. Only trouble is, he wasn’t supposed to. A small army of shady men in hats and suits, lurking in the shadows, are doing their best to keep David and Elise apart. As we soon discover, it’s part of some supernatural “big picture,” but, with love fuelling his determination, David is about to challenge destiny’s decision.

The Adjustment Bureau is a movie that, while it’s tempting to spill a ton of awesome secrets, it’s probably best that the lid be kept on.

Probably the biggest surprise is the lack of adrenaline. If you’re expecting The Bourne Identity meets The X-Files, best temper that thrill ride thirst.  Not that the movie has a snail’s pace, but it isn’t gasping for breath either.  The Adjustment Bureau doesn’t sprint, it unravels and patience pays off.

If there are any complaints here, it’s probably that the story doesn’t go deep enough; a profound concept is dangled, but rather than get knee-deep in exploring it, Nolfi and company are content to dip in a toe.

No matter. As mentioned, it’s so bloody entertaining, I’m not sure I wanted my mind blown with this baby. Just the fact that I could park it for two hours and enjoy felt pretty good.

–– Jason Armstrong is The Morning Star’s movie reviewer. His column appears in Entertainment every Friday and Sunday.