With a host of stars including Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Terence Stamp, ‘The Adjustment Bureau‘ was expected to be one of the strong performers in this month’s box office releases. Based on the Philip K. Dick short story, ‘The Adjustment Team‘, the film stars Matt Damon as fictional US Senate candidate, David Norris, in an election. When a picture is released that discredits his campaign, he prepares for his speech in the bathroom and meets Elisa Sellas, played by Emily Blunt. In this scene, there is an immediate connection between the two actors and it is boosted through the skilful acting of both Damon and Blunt. As a result of Sellas meeting Norris, he changes his speech and becomes a front-runner for the following election due to be held in 2010. One of the slight problems with this detail is that US Senate elections are held every six years unless there was a recall election, the senator dies or resigns. None of these are given as explanations about why an election is held on four years after Norris’ initial defeat.
What follows is a film that looks at three major themes: fate and the notion of free will; the idea of God and the power of love or the idea of ‘true love’. It is after this speech that we are introduced to ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ when Anthony Mackie, who plays Harry Mitchell, is meant to cause Norris to spill coffee on himself. Mitchell fails in this action and it results in Norris and Sellas meeting again, something that, according to the Bureau, is not meant to happen. The film now follows Norris and Sellas in their turbulent relationship as the Bureau seeks to keep the two apart while ensuring that both follow their own plans. It is here that we start to ask ourselves about the idea of free will, about whether there is an ‘individual plan’ that we must all keep to.
The film is both religious and philosophical in its discussion of this idea. When Mitchell is confronted with his superior, Mr Richardson (played by John Slattery), one of the questions that is asked by Mitchell is “Do you think this is right?” and Richardson responds “Not like I used to”. The lines suggest that there is a philosophical problem: if the Bureau does not have faith in themselves, how can others be expected to follow their own plan? It’s problematic and people will struggle with some of the ideas and questions that it poses to the audience. The Adjustment Bureau is one of the most interesting creations of Philip K. Dick, an organisation that controls and ensures that the lives of important people are kept on track. When Norris asks Mitchell whether the members of this organisation are angels, Mitchell responds “We’ve been called that”. The controller of this organisation, the Chairman, is a reference to the idea of “God” and the end of the film has a poignant line. When Norris and Sellas infiltrate the Bureau, they are confronted by Mitchell who tells Norris that “He has met the Chairman. We’ve all met the Chairman but he, or she, comes in different forms to different people.”
One of the minor stars of this film is Terence Stamp who is Mr Thompson, the superior of both Mitchell and Richardson. He is known as the “Hammer” because of his involvement in earlier cases and he causes mania and chaos for both Norris and Sellas. He is one of the major stars because he explores the idea of free will, God and the role we play in life. He creates a problem for Norris when he is forced to choose between success and love. The true star, however, is not Damon or Blunt. It’s Anthony Mackie who plays Harry Mitchell. He is a renegade agent of ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ and assists Norris and Sellas in their dream to change their plan to be together.
This is a film that is both a drama and a love story, a film that explores deep ideas but keeps the audience interested. Is it possible that the film could have been done without the romantic element, as with Dick’s original story? It’s possible but it wouldn’t have been as interesting, especially for the audience. The romantic element is crucial to keep the audience’s attention and I, for one, recommend this film wholeheartedly to those who are interested in pseudo-science-fiction films or romantic films.
- “Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau” and related posts (lippsisters.com)
- THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU Video Interviews -Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie (thepeoplesmovies.com)
- 7 Movie Clips from THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (collider.com)
- 5 Reasons To See The Adjustment Bureau (hellobeautiful.com)
- The Adjustment Bureau: Fate vs Free Will (1prettybrowngirl.com)
- Writer-Director George Nolfi Exclusive Interview THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (collider.com)