Monday, 7 March 2011

Review: The Adjustment Bureau

Year: 2011
Director: George Nolfi
Screenplay: George Nolfi
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie

Synopsis is here

Is awards season over for another year? Because here's a late entry for "most misguided film comparison". The Adjustment Bureau (based in Phillip K Dick's The Adjustment Team) has had a quote plastered on the posters (attributed to Total Film) labeling the film "Inception meets Bourne". Regardless of whether or not it was a hasty quote slapped on by the mag because of what they knew at the time (I do not have the issue and I ain't looking for it) or it was a a touch of lazy writing picked up by lazy marketing people, it's clear to most people that the quote is WRONG.

Such dodgy wordsmithery (copyright LBP) can cause frustration because it paints the wrong picture of the film. However, in terms of much of the film's marketing, we can clearly see that painting a true portrayal doesn't appear to be a high on the list. Sure enough, checking out some of my friends facebook status over the weekend roused alarm bells.

The only ties to Bourne is that the film has Matt Damon claiming an aspect of his life (Nolfi also wrote Ultimatum). There is little to no relationship with Nolan's extravagant feature; however, one of the most fascinating aspects of The Adjustment Bureau is that it has grander themes than Inception. Dreamworlds are one thing, but fatalism? The film may have the upper hand.

Despite this, The Adjustment Bureau is mostly confined to the frames of romance. In watching the film, it appeared to be more of a melding of A Life less ordinary, Serendipity and Minority Report than anything else. Those who have looked that mesh of films in disgust/confusion shouldn't click close on your windows just yet as despite being softer than one may expect from it's trailers and tv spots, The Adjustment Bureau is an enjoyably lighthearted piece of fluff. One that has funnier than it should be and has a romance more palatable than a thousand Katherine Heigl/Jennifer Aniston/Matthew McConaughey (delete where appropriate)  features. Inception is way more effective with it's beefed up sci-fi action and mind breaking visuals/effects. What TAB has however is warmth.

The center of the feature has a relationship that not only feels tangible (the chemistry between Damon and Blunt is smooth and natural.), but due to the sci-fi element put in place (with it's explanations rightly placed in the shade) we are able to get over certain tropes that can often derail cinematic romances. The film does have that "movie love" touch to it, however, the way it's is placed as part of the films universe works.

In fact much of the movie works. Despite the fact that the last third comes off as quite trite, the film rolls by at a pace brisker than the running time suggests and holds a core relationship that's worth bothering about on a Friday night out. Nolfis climatic scenes have a great energy to them that unfortunately goes limp with it's last moments but it's not enough to truly deter the film as a whole.

Those looking for something more substantial with the ideas of fate and free will, may be very put off by the light touch placed on such deep themes. However The Adjustment Bureau is a fun distraction which once again reminds me that Anthony Mackie needs to be given something substantial in the future.