Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Overall Score: 7.25/10

Set against a mosaic of blue and gray control interspersed throughout bright world of free will, The Adjustment Bureau takes on the long standing battle of Free Will vs. Pre-Ordained Path. And much like its political savvy centerfold, Adjustment Bureau knows to walk the thin line right in between the two. Unwilling to commit to religious overtones or undertones, Adjustment Bureau is a fresh spin on a tired romance genre, blending in a science fiction - fantasy element with some pseudo-religion that supplies just enough juice to keep the engine rolling along.

Despite being a romance-thriller, The Adjustment Bureau is surprisingly tame on both accounts. Instead, the film relies heavily on drama and anticipation in building to its inevitable 'run for freedom' climax. In turn, utilizing the strength of its characters to get it there. This is an admirable decision in an age in which unnecessary chase sequences to nowhere have become common place, and romances have been 'dumbed down' to 'asshole gets the girl.'

Relying on its cast of colorful characters, and the romantic inclinations of its audience members, The Adjustment Bureau finds a way to overcome the many 'really?' moments that would plague a film of this nature; while still maintaining viewer interest. Matt Damon is better than he's been in a few of his more 'Oscar-Bait' centric roles as of late, and Emily Blunt is always a delight to watch. Anthony Mackie continues his upward trend following The Hurt Locker, and John Slattery provides the film with a much needed whimsical edge. Terence Stamp seems set for a collision course with Frank Langella for the title of 'ultimate talk-only bad guy in a suit and hat,' but Langella still holds the edge. Last, but not least, professional 'that guy' Michael Kelly rounds out the film's strong cast, and gives us the necessary realist amidst this sea of fantasy.

Despite the film's unique color scheme, abandoned entirely by the marketing team, writer-director George Nolfi doesn't bring much to the table that one wouldn't expect from other directors. His greatest strength lies in his awareness of the openness to the world he has created. In a Matrix style environment where every door can lead to anywhere, Nolfi incorporates this motif through a series of exciting chase sequences spread across the entirety of New York. This high speed contrast keeps things exhilarating, allowing the film to touch on the finer landmarks without being too obsessive about them. Granted the one-two punch of Yankee stadium and the Statue of Liberty is a bit pushing it.

However, Nolfi also shows a concern in dealing with his supporting characters. Mackie's Harry Mitchell could have easily been written off as your typical 'they're not all bad guys' routine, but Nolfi takes the time to explore and expand deeper. He's more than just a knowledge bridge to the bureau, he serves as the center of the character web, keeping everything in balance for us to appreciate. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost a bit big to chew on. The almost complete loss of characterization for our main romantic counterpart in Elise (Blunt). We don't understand her reasoning, and her backstory is rushed at cataclysmic rates through brief encounters.

The obvious consequence leaves the romantic stronghold of the film in a bit of muddy water. You can stand to be there, but it's far from the comfort and safety you would expect given the conditions. It is by those standards that I find myself quite torn on The Adjustment Bureau. It's good enough to be enjoyed and appreciated, but where one can find potential, many can easily find fault.

Film Credits:
Written and Directed By -
George Nolfi
Based on the Short Story By - Philip K. Dick

5 better thoughts:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Still might go see this one.

Jack Ibbetson said...

I assume from the score that it will still be worth seeing? The trailer was inticing and I've been debating whether to go.

Dan O. said...

It's a breezy film masquerading as a sincere one, and while that's obnoxious, it's hard to hate a fun night at the movies. Good Review!

Univarn said...

@AlexJ You might enjoy it - especially its more fantastical elements.

@Jack I think it's worth seeing, just a case where the faults sat a bit more heavy in my mind.

@Dan It is hard to hate a fun night at the movies - but not hard to be upset by a film that just misses the mark.

Ryan McNeil said...

I liked it a bit more than you (just a bit mind you), but do dearly wish that the Yankee Stadium moment hadn't been spoiled by the ads as it was a touch that I really got a kick out of within context.

If you drop by The Matinee today, Simon Columb and I will be talking about this film.

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