Sunday, February 13, 2011
The Adjustment Bureau (Review)
Got to see a free screening of this movie, and let me say I was impressed. By now you yourself have seen the trailers. If you haven't, it is easy enough to find. Just check out YouTube.
So what is The Adjustment Bureau all about? Well, one can simply describe the plot. David Norris (Matt Damon) is a New York Congressman who looked on the verge of winning a Senate seat when some silly shenanigans from his past (and they were just silly) derailed the campaign. As he watched himself go down to defeat, he went to practice his concessions speech--and meets Elise (Emily Blunt) purely by accident. They click. Do they ever! Not least because she sees through every little white lie that comes out of his mouth. Going back to his campaign HQ, he doesn't give the prepared speech but an impromptu, humorous one from the heart. It instantly revives his political career.
Forward a few months. It seems some strange men in hats are quietly planning something important, but one of them fails. He doesn't make Norris spill his coffee in time. As a result, David doesn't miss his bus and again meets Elise, who gives him her phone number. When he gets to work, eyes alight and a bounce in his stop, David sees something shocking. And it rocks his world.
He sees agents of The Adjustment Bureau at work. These are the men in hats. Except they don't seem to be men, not really. Some call them angels, among other things, and their boss The Chairman. It seems there is a plan. Later, a high ranking agent (Terrence Stamp) spells it out bluntly. You do not have free will, he says. You have the appearance of free will. Sure, you get to choose your clothes and what you eat, but the big stuff is something you can't be trusted with. Twice before the agents withdrew, thinking maybe mankind could handle things on their own. Both were utter disasters, the last one ending after the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly wiped out everything on Earth. Norris is part of the plan. A good plan. One that nudges humanity forward, away from their own worst impulses. More, Norris is an important part of the plan, destined to have the chance to do great and good things.
But not with Elise. With her, his part in the plan fails. The plan fails.
Yet he loves her, with the kind of utter devotion that inspires songs and great deeds. Not being at all selfish, yet also a bit reckless and daring, Norris faces a terrible dilemna. A cheap way to explore that would be what the trailer kinda/sorta hints at--one long chase scene. No. What the filmmakers did here proved far more interesting.
Which is not to say there aren't chases. There are, and very interesting ones too.
But instead of a long action sequence, we get a compelling struggle between the best aspects of everyone involved. I cannot emphasize enough this movie has no villains. Everyone is trying to do their level best to make this world a better place, willing to sacrifice much for that end. Yet what they cannot sacrifice is the crux of the film. Even if you do something for the genuine Higher Good, what kind of person doesn't feel guilt for pain and damage and unhappiness caused, no matter what the payoff?
The whole thing is like a really good, really high budget Twilight Zone episode. Or maybe The Outer Limits.
What is the movie about? Never mind the plot. This movie explores fate, and taking control of one's fate. It is about growth and free will and what we can sometimes be, what we only occasionally are.