Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Flick of The Day: The Adjustment Bureau

Hollywood will forever owe a debt of gratitude to the American author Philip K. Dick. Perhaps not as well known as he should be, Dick was a writer of grand metaphysical science fiction exploring such disparate themes as authoritarianism, drug usage, mental illness and elements of theology. Like so many writers, Dick spent most of his life in relative poverty and yet since his death his work has been adapted into numerous big budget pictures, sometimes well sometimes poorly but always profitably. Film's include Total Recall, Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report and today's flick of the day, The Adjustment Bureau.
David Norris is a dashing young politician, ably played by the usually dashing Matt Damon, with a promising future as a Congressman and campaigner. However, on the night he loses his first big election he meets a young woman named Elise, played by Emily Blunt while practising a concession speech in the toilets. Making an instant connection, they appear perfect for each other. Then fate intervenes to pull them apart. Years pass and David becomes enchanted by the memory of Elise, seeking her out on city buses. Eventually they reunite only to be separated again. However, what if it is not fate pulling them apart but something all together more sinister. Enter the Adjustment Bureau. A group of dapper gents dressed like Mad Men, who intervene in human life to ensure everything stays according to the plan set down by the The Chairman, a god like being. There are fine turns from John Slattery and Terence Stamp as adjusters. Of course before long David stumbles on the bureau doing its work and they tell him the truth. That the plan says he and Elise are not to be together. He cant't leave it alone though and sets about defying the bureau and seeking out Elise so that they may be together. How far is he willing to go for a relationship?
While at times mind bending, this is a thoroughly enjoyable tale. It strikes a fine balance between an old fashioned romance and the action of a chase movie. Depending on your point of view, you may view David and Elise's obsession with each other as unreasonable but I suppose anyone with a romantic bent can't but fall for their love at first sight tale. Such a story is as old as time, from Tristan & Isolde to Romeo & Juliet, star crossed lovers overcoming resistance has always made a good story. It helps of course that there is some fine chemistry between Blunt and Damon. The film asks that fundamental question, how far are you willing to go for love? In the case of Elise and David, the answer is pretty damn far.
The film hints at the larger consequences of Elise and David staying together not just for their own lives but perhaps for the world in general. If there is any criticism it is that not enough is made of this. The special effects and the powers of the adjustment bureau are particularly enjoyable aspects, giving the film the wow factor which when added to a great story makes for a decent film.

David Norris: What ever happened to Free Will? 
Thompson: We actually tried Free Will before. After taking you from hunting and gathering to the height of the Roman Empire we stepped back to see how you'd do on your own. You gave us the Dark Ages for five centuries... until finally we decided we should come back in. The Chairman thought maybe we just needed to do a better job of teaching you how to ride a bike before taking the training wheels off again. So we gave you the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution. For six hundred years we taught you to control your impulses with reason, then in 1910 we stepped back. Within fifty years, you'd brought us World War I, the Depression, Fascism, the Holocaust and capped it off by bringing the entire planet to the brink of destruction in the Cuban Missile Crisis. At that point a decision was taken to step back in again before you did something that even we couldn't fix. You don't have free will, David. You have the appearance of free will.

All in all a fine film, and another fine adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story which once again begs the question, how long can Hollywood plow through his body of work for ideas? A while longer I'm sure. In any case, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt make the best of their roles.Well worth a look and those peddling the idea that this is a poor man's Inception would do well to reconsider.

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