Your preconception of this existential romantic thriller’s entertainment value is about to be adjusted.
On the night of his loss for a congressional seat, David Norris (Matt Damon) meets Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) and instantly makes a connection, one that inspires a speech that sets him on the path to winning his next political run. When he runs into Elise again shortly thereafter, the connection grows stronger. As it turns out, there’s a plan for everyone’s life, and David was never supposed to meet Elise again. Now those in charge of ensuring everything goes as planned will have to make an adjustment…
Based upon a Philip K. Dick short story, this film marries a chick flick romance to an existential thriller with positive results. The dilemma is with free will; do we have it or don’t we? An in-film explanation suggests that, sometimes, when we lose our keys or hit a series of red lights while driving, it may not be chance… it may be THEM. Worse yet, these guys have some kind of plan for each person, suggesting that sometimes fate needs a kick in the pants. The real accomplishment of this production is the underlying thinking that taking charge of your own life might get you a lobotomy but finding the right person to share your life with may be worth the risk.
For a story that covers approximately four years, the editing keeps it all seamless while the script keeps you on the edge of your seat. To put it another way, imagine that Men in Black weren’t protecting us from alien threats but instead making sure that history unfolds as planned. In the big scheme of things, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” but that’s only when you’re not “the many.” Since the so-called bad guys need the lives of the characters to continue to keep the plan working (dead people have a tendency to fail at interactivity), this sets up clever character moments both of frustration and revelation that draws viewers deeper into the concept.
It’s a bit sad that films like this only seem to come out as pre-summer releases. This is the kind of multi-layered, high concept story that feels very original, a one-shot that won’t spawn a half-dozen sequels (The Adjustment Bureau 2: The New Plan!) It entertains, makes you think just a bit, and provides a little hope for everyone. Maybe The Adjustment Bureau is a bit too cerebral for summer fare or too romantically inclined for mainstream audiences, but isn’t that preferable to another Dumb and Dumber movie?
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)