For some reason, all the trailers and television spots for ‘The Adjustment Bureau’, writer-director George Nolfi’s adaptation of a marginal Philip K. Dick short story, have featured Matt Damon and Emily Blunt running around all over the place. That makes it seem like it’s a movie about people who run around all over the place. It’s not. There is running, but it’s not the movie’s central concern.
Damon plays a charismatic congressman running for Senate. On the night of his election, he realizes that he’s losing badly, and goes to the bathroom of the Waldorf-Astoria to compose himself. In the bathroom, he runs into Blunt, as a ballerina who on this particular night has been dared to crash a wedding. The two hit it off immediately, and it’s a testament to Nolfi’s economic storytelling that we feel the two characters click.
This is important because, for much of the rest of the movie, a shadowy group (the titular Adjustment Bureau) tries to keep them apart. The Bureau (among them Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, and Terence Stamp), are the dudes who pull the strings, and they have definite plans for Damon’s politician. Apparently, none of those plans involve Blunt.
It’s fun to watch Damon try to get with this adorable girl, as the guys behind-the-scenes scramble to catch up with them. The movie wears its romantic heart on its sleeve. It’s a surprisingly sweet story, with the two leads showing immediate, identifiable chemistry in a way few actors do these days. (Oof, I just had a violent flashback to ‘The Tourist‘ – make it stop!)
We’re never let in on the Bureau’s machinations, or why they want these two apart so badly. Yet the movie, for all its heady ruminations on the nature of fate and destiny, keeps us so grounded with the core romance that none of these tangential elements matter much. I mean, they do matter, to enrich the story and give it greater depth. But rarely does the movie get lost in its own hokum, at least to a point where the audience says, “Wait a minute, hold on. Bring on all that running we saw on the commercials!”
To say much more would give away the fun of the movie. It spectacularly climaxes in what can only (vaguely) be described as the second greatest “door chase” of all time after ‘Monsters, Inc.’. Damon and Blunt do great work. Nolfi, a noted screenwriter but here a first-time director, shows a lot of skill behind the camera. And it’s that unexpected emotional oomph that makes ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ one of the better Philip K. Dick adaptations.