George Nolfi. USA. 2011.

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Hollywood seems to be running out of ideas. This latest offering which is part romance part free-will dramatisation has a group of men with extraordinary powers orchestrating the actions of the lead players - handsome young Senate candidate David Norris( Matt Damon) and his lady love Elise(Emily Blunt), a contemporary dance exponent. Now why these two people are more important than others, the film fails to divulge. So we just have to sit back and watch what ensues. The men in
fedoras with life altering powers try to keep the two lovers apart but free will has it’s own magnetism and the two do meet up a few times over several years and eventually force the powers that be to acknowledge that their love is more powerful than any supernatural mumbo-jumbo they were subjected to.

Directed, written by George Nolfi, based on the 1954 short story "Adjustment Team" by Philip K. Dick, the film fails to muster excitement mainly because the very idea of super beings controlling human action appears preposterous and entirely untenable. Philip K Dick might just be using the adjustment Team as a metaphor for fate
and karma but it doesn’t come across as a solid believable idea in the film. The story is high concept no doubt but it’s execution fails to pass muster mainly because there is no valid explanation for the so-called adjustment powers of these super-beings. Philip K Dick’s short stories have been grist for Hollywood studios before and have managed to rake in the moolah despite the indifferent quality of the cinematic productions. ‘Blade runner’ and ‘Minority Report’ were the best of the lot while ‘Total recall’, ‘Next’ have little resemblance to the original ideas. ‘ The adjustment Bureau’ promises a lot, especially in the first half where the brain-twisting set-up and fluid pace manage to keep you engrossed. But once pithy explanations about predestination and free will come into play the narrative begins to sink under it’s own contradictions. George Nolfi who wrote Ocean’s Twelve, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Sentinel and Timeline, also scripted this film and is also helming it. His debut narrative spiel though lacks the breathlessness and solidity of a heady intelligent thriller. It’s ideas about chance, destiny and the existence of a higher intelligence are quite unconvincing and the obviousness of Nolfi’s manufactured intrigue makes it that much more suspect.

By the time David gets the help of a sympathetic adjuster (Anthony Mackie) and initiates a hot pursuit through the bureau’s network of inter-dimensional doorways you begin to get the feel that this is an ‘Inception’ wannabe. The surreal set-pieces and visual pyrotechnics add some gloss to the predominantly neo-noir content. The lead performances by Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have strong gravitas but it’s not enough to keep you glued to your seats. Kevin Thompson's elegant production design,  John Toll’s camerawork, Jay Rabinowitz’s editing and Thomas Newman’s music add a touch of class to the proceedings also but it’s never enough!

Rating:   *  *  ½

Johnson Thomas

Also see Howard Schumann's review of The Adjustment Bureau

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