Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

We went to see The Adjustment Bureau the other night. This is based on a story by the famous sci-fi writer, Philip K Dick, who also wrote the stories that became The Minority Report, Bladerunner, Paycheck, Total Recall and others.

It's perhaps a bit underpar by comparison with some of those more illustrious movies. That's not to say it isn't interesting, or exciting, though it does take some minutes to get off the ground. It just lacks a little innovative edge, I think, though what that edge should be I'm not exactly able to put my finger on.

Matt Damon plays an upcoming congressman who's a likely candidate for the Presidency a few campaigns down the track. Something from the past is revealed and he finds himself seemingly back at square one. He meets a girl with plenty of personality (in the men's toilet, for no apparent reason) and it's love at first sight. She vanishes, he finds her again on the bus by chance, and the supposed pattern of his life is broken; that is, the pattern according to the Adjustment Bureau, a mysterious group who are caught in the act of changing someone's mind by Damon, and who swear him to secrecy on the pain of a very nasty future.

Damon and Emily Blunt make a good romantic couple, but part of the problem with the movie is that it's not quite sure whether it's a sci-fi story, a debate relating to free will, or a love story. It's all three at times and the three don't always fit comfortably; there are moments when they (almost) belong to separate movies.

Nevertheless we enjoyed it. It doesn't rely on any great special effects (the way in which ordinary-looking doors open onto football stadiums, or lead back to the place you started from, or other oddball rooms, is perhaps its niftiest component) and the discussions on free will pose some interesting questions. It also gives Damon and Blunt some warm fun scenes - in fact, for once, Damon isn't the indomitable man, full of a streetwiseness that doesn't exist outside the movies.

The free will discussions don't really get the room they need to become full-fledged, and leave the audience saying...'that's all very well, but...' We never find out who the Great Chairman is, or whether these human beings (as they seem to be) are angels or some other spiritual beings. They certainly work hard for their money, however: as one character says, there just aren't enough of them to go around, and so some things get overlooked.

The movie looks great: the Chairman and his cronies inhabit a vast soaring building full of art deco design (?), broad hallways, modern furniture (in the sense that it was modern when the building was built) and strange cramped corridors. The photography has a sharpness to it, particularly in the interiors, that creates a superb atmosphere in itself.

Not quite in the class of some of the other P K Dick classics, but still a visit.
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