The Adjustment Bureau is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick called Adjustment Team. The film is about a man named David (Matt Damon) who runs into a woman named Elise (Emily Blunt). Almost instantly after meeting each other, the two fall in love, but this love was not according to “the plan”. A team known as The Adjustment Bureau has one task and that is to make sure everyone’s lives follow the path they made for them. There is a plan for everyone and sometimes intervention is needed, in which case The Adjustment Bureau steps in and changes things, sometimes this requires a full wipe of the brain and sometimes it can be something as simple as making someone spill a cup of coffee. While their actions may seem subtle, the grander scheme of it all is quite large. The Chairman runs all of this and while they never actually say it in the film, you can think of him as God and The Adjustment Bureau as his Angels. I had a few problems with this film when I saw it theatrically, but I did note that it would make for a strong rental and to my surprise it really is quite enjoyable at home.
The film tackles all sorts of topics like free will and true love. It handles both of those themes quite well thanks to the very strong chemistry between its excellent two leads. Damon and Blunt play off each other perfectly. I always have problems with films like this because I never feel that spark between the two characters and with this film I really can’t say that I questioned the authenticity of their relationship. I could really feel that they were very much in love and I understood why they wanted to risk their lives for each other.
Due to a mess up by one of the Adjustment Bureau members, David meets up with Elise again in the film and that is what starts the downward spiral. He was never supposed to see her again and now that he has, he can’t keep his mind off of her. This causes him to actually become aware of The Adjustment Bureau by walking in on them doing some adjusting to a friend of his. They tell him straight up not to reveal their identity and if he does they will wipe his brain clean. This doesn’t stop him from searching for Elise. He runs into her several times again and the team tells him that if he wants to continue his successful political career then he better stop looking for her. In addition to ruining his career, he could also ruin Elise’s dancing career. So David is faced with a chose; does he go to no end to find Elise and be with her or does he follow the plan set out for him by The Adjustment Bureau and never meet her again?
While the film has an interesting premise, it suffers from a poor marketing campaign. Most of the trailers make it out to be a straight up science fiction film with some action thrown in, but I would classify it as a romance with elements of science fiction and a brief moment of action. It spends the bulk of its running time establishing the relationship between David and Elise and if you take out the Adjustment Bureau team then you would have yourself a normal romantic story. Boy falls in love with girl on first sight and can’t get her out of his head. Then he searches for her every day until they meet again and the sparks light up. It’s only when you remember that The Adjustment Bureau is watching their every move that you remember that this has sci-fi elements in it.
This works very well for the film if you know what you’re expecting. I was a little displeased with the theatrical release of the film because I honestly thought there would be more action, but when I knew the film was a slower paced, romance with sci-fi elements I managed to enjoy it at home, if not more than my first viewing.
The slower 3/4ths of the movie plays out just fine because director George Nolfi fills the film with beautiful backdrops of New York City. Instead of your normal gritty and ugly view on New York, The Adjustment Bureau gives you a more stylized look at some very unique looking structures, especially towards the last 25 minutes, which is where most of the action takes place. It’s a chase scene through NYC that manages to cover a lot of ground in a very short time.
My only complaint with The Adjustment Bureau is the last 5 minutes. I liked the slow beginning of the film, it was quite refreshing when you’re use to so many films like these being bloated with action and lacking any story. I enjoyed the chase scene when it started because the visuals were very pleasing and the steady camera work helped keep focus on everything, but when the last 5 minutes happen, it all starts to feel rushed. It’s like they forgot to write the last five minutes so they came up with it on the fly. You’re in the middle of an intense chase and then BOOM its over, end credits. I didn’t enjoy the somewhat cheap ending as I thought it was an easy solution to a big problem.
The Blu-ray release features a very stunning video transfer. Most of the film takes place in dark and gloomy areas, which are captured perfectly. Soft and cool blues and greys take up most of the film. Once the final act starts to take over, the action moves outside and the colors pop in a very vivid and clear transfer. The scenery of New York has never looked so good before until this release. Universal delivers a very clean and sharp transfer which helps enhance the experience.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track provided for this film is very loud and active. The track benefits from the New York setting by always giving you activity in the rear speakers, whether it being a taxi buzzing by or an abundance of noise by busy New York pedestrians, the track never feels silent or dull. The dialogue comes across very clear, which is very good considering the bulk of the film is talking. The overall mixture of the surrounding effects with the dialogue is what really shines as it makes for an immersive experience.
The Adjustment Bureau comes with a decent spread of special features that will please a fan or someone looking to kill some time. The full list can be viewed below:
Feature Commentary By Writer-Director George Nolfi: An interesting commentary that covers the shooting in New York City, adapting the Philip K. Dick novel and more.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD, 6:54): Seven deleted scenes, a few of which include a character that was cut out of the film named Henderson. He was a part of The Adjustment Bureau team.
Labyrinth of Doors (HD, 33:57): An interesting feature that allows you to view some of the Adjustment Bureaus doors. By clicking on a door you can watch behind the scenes footage, go to another door or view a clip that was associated with said door.
Leaping Through New York (HD, 7:36): A featurette that deals with shooting in New York City.
Destine to Be (HD, 4:51): A short but sweet video with Blunt and Damon talking about love and their two characters.
Becoming Elise (HD, 7:08): Blunt talks about dancing experience prior to the film.
Overall, The Adjustment Bureau is a film that manages to be good due to its two very likeable leads. The addition of a science fiction element helps make it stand out from other films, but it doesn’t really add much to an already strong romance. Director George Nolfi manages to capture some really nice shots of New York City, which shine very well on Blu-ray thanks to a solid video transfer by Universal Studios. The audio is very active on all the channels and it helps fill the space between watching the movie and being a part of it. The disc is rounded out with a decent array of extras that will keep you occupied on a rainy afternoon. If you’re in the mood for a good romance with an interesting sci-fi twist added to the mix then check out The Adjustment Bureau. Just remember that it’s not as action heavy as the trailers make it out to be.
Movie – 7/10
Video – 9/10
Audio – 9/10
Special Features – 6/10
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