Existentialist questions about predestination and free will permeate this plodding sci-fi thriller, George Nolfi’s adaptation of a Philip K. Dick fantasy which asserts that smartly tailored, dark-suited guardian angels wearing hats walk among us to keep us on track.
Idealistic David Norris (Matt Damon) is a popular Brooklyn congressman who loses his initial bid to become a U.S. Senator. He’s unfortunately prone to bar fights and mooning for pals at a college reunion. Just before he concedes, he meets Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), an outspoken dancer who inspires him to deliver a pivotal speech that revives his political career. But she quickly disappears. Apparently they’re not meant to be together – at least according to a squadron of menacing adjusters and case officers, led by John Slattery, Anthony Mackie and Terence Stamp, who can manipulate not only traffic but the space/time continuum, creating a labyrinthine system of enchanted ‘doors’ quickly transporting them from one end of Manhattan to another. In fact, David is told that if he will abandon his quest to find Elise, his future not only includes a successful Senatorial bid but also the U.S. Presidency. Problem is: despite the meddlesome angels’ continuing roadblocks, David and Elise feel this irresistible, if inexplicable, attraction. So the problem is referred to the Chairman, a euphemism for God.
With screenwriting credits like “Ocean’s Twelve” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” on his resume, George Nolfi added a romantic element not found in the original 1954 Philip K. Dick short story and decided to try directing, backed by the commitment of Matt Damon. Unfortunately, like many good sci-fi writers, Nolfi presents a provocative premise but never develops credible characters and constantly reiterates clichéd dialogue like, “You’ve deviated from The Plan.” Plus, there are many ludicrous, ill-logical plot loopholes. Yet Damon and Blunt are quite likeable, and there are cameos by NYC Mayor
Michael Bloomberg, Jon Stewart and Jesse Jackson.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Adjustment Bureau” is a spiritual 6
about celestial messengers intervening on mortals’ search for soul mates.