Sometimes if you are lucky a movie can hit all the right notes. The result can leave you all tingly: just delighted to have enjoyed a well executed movie. The result is that you leave the theater with the same well satisfied experience as eating an excellent meal at a five star restaurant.
That was my experience watching The Adjustment Bureau Wednesday night in Golden, Colorado. For me, it hit all the right notes. I won’t say it necessarily will for you as well but it should. Certainly there are better movies than The Adjustment Bureau. What I find to be excellent and what I really like are two different things. I really enjoy a good romance and I enjoy good science fiction, so marrying the two is win-win. Unlike my recent second viewing of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was as sterile as a Clorox Wipe, The Adjustment Bureau is a science fiction/romance movie full of intrigue and passion.
In fact, many of the premises in The Adjustment Bureau are not entirely novel. There are snippets of other movies and shows here that will seem familiar. There are elements of The Matrix movies as mysterious guys in suits (and hats in this case) seem to be busy manipulating reality, or its approximation. There is a little bit of Star Trek as well, at least the episode City on the Edge of Forever, which many Trekkers say was the finest show from the original series. And there is plenty of boy meets girl and falls passionately but peculiarly in love with her. Here we get a big twist, for forces of The Adjustment Bureau are going to extraordinary lengths to keep them apart. Their romance is interfering with a much larger and more important agenda for mankind.
Matt Damon was busy last year. He won many plaudits, including an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor in Invictus. Also in 2010, he played LaBoeuf in the wonderful remake of True Grit. In The Adjustment Bureau he plays David Norris, a telegenic people’s choice candidate whose passion is politics, particularly the high of running for office. David has the distinction of being the youngest congressman ever elected, representing his home borough of Brooklyn. Now he is running to be senator, but his campaign is struck down at the last minute by an inopportune picture of himself as a college-aged youth mooning people.
While practicing his concession speech in a vacant men’s room, he discovers the place is not quite empty as he hoped. A woman (Elise Sellas, played by Emily Blunt) has been quietly occupying a stall for some time. She needed some private time too, because she is eluding hotel security for crashing a wedding party at the hotel. Elise is just delightful: funny, acerbic and a bit self deprecating; in short she and David are a complete match mentally, physically and emotionally. Within minutes they are kissing but he does not have time to get her name or number. Elise does throw him off his game, and he ends up giving a completely different concession speech, one which immediately puts him back in the running in some future election.
All this should be good news, except David is lovesick and has no way to find the woman he fell in love with. However, fate intervenes and she unexpectedly shows up on a city bus. He gets her name and a phone number, and then jumps off the bus to start a new corporate job. He enters the building so mindless that he does not notice that everyone is frozen in place. When he enters his new boss’s office he finds him frozen but with guys in suits and hats busy scanning his brain. When they see him they react in horror. He was not supposed to arrive until seven minutes later. The guys from The Adjustment Bureau are discovered tuning the present to create a different future. Moreover, David’s brain is unusually resilient to a mindwash, so they end up telling him the truth. The Adjustment Bureau has a mission to keep mankind from imploding, and this involves making subtle manipulations to history to make certain outcomes happen. David must do his best to forget what he has seen and above all else he must forget about this new love that has come into his life.
Okay, enough of the plot giveaways. This should be more than enough to tempt you because apparently the only thing David cares more about now than politics is Elise, but the men from The Adjustment Bureau have burned the card with her name and phone number. This plus eight million New Yorkers should keep David and Elise from ever meeting again. David despondently continues with life until three years later, when again by chance and against “the plan” they bump into each other again.
What do you do if you find your love again but you know that loving and marrying her will mean her rising career as a dancer will degrade to that of teaching ballet to kindergarteners and your fast path to President of the United States will disappear as well? To say the least, it feels like a Hobson’s choice. In short, it’s not unlike the choice Captain James T. Kirk had with Edith Keeler. Only there are more dimensions to this choice that Captain Kirk ever had to deal with, which will be unveiled as the movie unfolds.
Perhaps like Captain Kirk, David needs a Corbomite Maneuver, which David does his best to pull off, despite the certainty of failure and high likelihood of brain erasure if he gets too far. One thing is for sure: David and Elise really, really belong together. The actors have great chemistry together but who can argue with these mysterious guys with magic hats, funky tablet books and an unseen chairman who controls all?
The movie is based on a story by the late eclectic science fiction author Philip K. Dick. It was a story that should have been made into a movie many years ago, but was worth the wait because this movie is done so well. It is romantic, it is heartfelt, it is bittersweet, it is intriguing, it is mysterious, it will make your heart pound at points, it is wonderful and it is a really good time rolled all into one. Anthony Mackie plays the pivotal role of agent Harry Mitchell, a superbeing with a heart.
The movie is tremendous fun and one of the most enjoyable movies I have seen in years. I bet you will feel the same way.
3.4 on my four-point scale, with some extra tenths of a point thrown in just for pure enjoyment.