March 2, 2011
The Adjustment Bureau
I caught a screening of The Adjustment Bureau, which is not one of the greatest movies of 2011, but still a fun time. This is the one with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt as love-struck New Yorkers on the run from a group of stern-looking men in really nice suits who want to keep the two of them apart in order to maintain some mysterious plan.
The most interesting thing about the movie to me is all the other movies it reminds me of. It's got the shadowy figures freezing time and manipulating people without their knowledge, like in Dark City, the pseudo-spiritual sci-fi paranoia of The Matrix, and the sentimental neurologically-fated romance of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It's warmer than Inception, but not as smart.
Being original isn't everything, and even with all its similarities to other movies, this one still has its own style. I especially like the old-timey technology that the members of the Bureau use in their work: notebooks (the kind with paper in them), fedoras, doors. A lot depends on which way you turn a doorknob in the world of the Bureau. I also like the name change from the original Philip K. Dick story that the movie is based on: changing "Adjustment Team" to "Adjustment Bureau" adds a sensibility of 1950's institutions and oak-paneled rooms in ancient office buildings, which is where a lot of the action takes place.
It's the first movie from screenwriter George Nolfi, who wrote Ocean's 12 and The Bourne Ultimatum. This guy is comfortable working with stories by other people. The writing here is not wonderful, with some real clunkers that ruin a few scenes, but his direction is nice and brisk. And he got a great cast: Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are so easy with each other and funny, a huge step up from your typical romantic leads. John Slattery is good as a long-suffering, sort of inept middle manager, and from the moment Terence Stamp steps on the screen with his Darren Aronofsky scarf, he owns the movie. I love Anthony Mackie, but his character has a little bit of the stereotypical sage black man who exists only to dispense homespun wisdom to the white hero.
One other weird thing: the members of the Bureau are all walking around using old-fashioned notebooks and doorknobs to bend time and space, but then there are these other guys who work for them who use some kind of brainwave-disrupting laser wands and Tyvek suits.
I wish they'd stuck with the mid-20th century aesthetic and used Theremins and leather aprons to do the dirty work of mind control.
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