The Adjustment Bureau is Matt Damon’s latest action flick and George Nolfi’s first film as a director. Nolfi has adapted a short story by Phillip K Dick, the sci-fi author who just keeps giving long after he has passed on. The film opens with Damon as David Norris a New York congressman running for election to the senate who then fatefully meets Elise (Emily Blunt) and seemingly takes his life on a wrong turning. But the course of true love never did run smooth and when Norris attempts to pursue Elise he runs into a group of men who will do anything to stop him; The Adjustment Bureau.
John Slattery (Richardson) is Mad Menesque in his suit and hat and indeed the hit TV series seems to have been an inspiration for the look and feel of this film. Richardson works for The Chairman along with Harry (Anthony Mackie) and is concerned with the course of Norris’ life and that it should follow some preordained plan.
The original character from the book is a salesman but Nolfi decided to change it so that the character could be more important in terms of “the bigger picture”. Damon is well suited to playing a politician, he has the bland good looks and everyman feel about him and Nolfi writes him an interesting speech where he exposes the workings behind the manipulation needed to get senators elected. Damon also gets to do a bit of what he is good at which is running around trying to find stuff out and being earnest. Blunt apparently spent months training to dance in order to be convincing enough for the role of Elise and there seems to be genuine chemistry between the two leads. Mackie plays an adjuster in a quiet assured manner, someone who questions the order of things and wants to help Norris and Elise choose their own path. With Terence Stamp in a cameo as Thompson (someone higher up the food chain in the bureau) Nolfi has the perfect foil to bring some much needed gravitas to the proceedings.
There are some funny moments and getting The Daily Show to take part certainly helps stamp the comedy angle on this film. The costumes are amazing and New York is a great setting for such a tale with its timeless US city quality and some grand old buildings.
Nolfi decided to meld Dick’s original conceit – that fate is a group of men walking and working amongst us – with a love story – which works pretty well when you consider how much store we put by the chance meetings we have with our lovers, how “fate” puts us in the right places and the right times. The film tries to ask some of the big questions about what is important and what life is all about and if we can shape it and if so how much; how much blind faith we have to have and if the decisions we are making are the “right”ones. It also explores to an extent how when you are in a relationship you of course make compromises for the other person and are you making their lives better or worse – will you make them happy and take them off a course they should have followed?
Apart from a bit too much of a God-nod the film makes you think about synchronicity and fate and how you attach meaning to random moments and how coincidence shapes our lives and decisions. Terence Stamp sums it up nicely by recalling something his mum had said to him late in his life about how she met his dad “(She said) ‘He wasn’t what I wanted at all, but I couldn’t help myself.’ That’s the destiny isn’t it? Where your mind doesn’t want something but you have to do it anyway”. Indeed.