Movies

10 Critical Thoughts About… The Adjustment Bureau

Pin it

Highly specific observations on Matt Damon's Philip K. Dick-inspired thriller.

In The Adjustment Bureau, loosely adapted from a Philip K. Dick story, Matt Damon plays politician David Norris, whose life is turned upside down when he stumbles upon a higher power, one that regularly "adjusts" the course of events in order to produce certain outcomes.

1. It's silly…
Bureau smacks of The Matrix or Inception in that it wants so badly to blow your mind, man. Bad news: very few minds will be blown by this flick. You see, there's this magical but invisible bureaucratic system that we mortals can't see, run by "the Chairman" (we humans "have many names for Him," tee-hee) and his adjusters (ANGELS?), and so forth.

2. …but just go with it.
Fortunately, the movie's thin fate-versus-free-will plot is mitigated with high-stakes action and lots of running. The suspense/thriller aspect of the movie is loads of fun, especially after you mentally sideline all the pseudo-science-fiction mumbo-jumbo.

3. I wonder if Philip K. Dick ever found those keys.
Small, seemingly trivial nuisances like spilling coffee on your shirt or leaving your house late because you couldn't find your keys are divine adjustments, according to the story. In other words, when Mr. Dick misses the bus, he blames God.

4. Everything good in human history is thanks to the Chairman. Everything bad is our own damn fault.
After guiding us to "the height of the Roman Empire," the Chairman took off our training wheels. We blew it, so the adjustments came back at around the Renaissance and stopped soon before the Holocaust. Yes, God is responsible for everything but the Dark Ages and the Holocaust, which were our fault.

5. These angels are a stylish bunch.
Apparently the adjusters, who have been alive for centuries at the least and forever at the most, updated their wardrobes throughout time but stopped in the middle of the twentieth century. Visually, this makes it hard to separate co-star John Slattery's character from Roger Sterling, but I guess that's better than having to see angels wear cargo shorts and Crocs.

6. Fedoras are all part of the Plan, too.
At first glance, the ubiquity of fedoras seems like a cheap way to add intrigue, given the movie's contemporary setting. But when we find out that the angels are powerless if they're not wearing a hat — any hat at all, baseball caps included — we know that the ubiquity of fedoras is a cheap way to add intrigue.

7. Matt Damon: great actor or the greatest actor?
He can do it all: hopscotch through the globe to escape shadowy spies (the Bourne series), ride horses through the Old West with a little girl (True Grit), date harried comedy writers for an extended period of time (30 Rock), and turn otherwise lackluster movies into total Netflix material (The Adjustment Bureau).

8. No kissing in the Plan!
Norris meets a beautiful dancer (Emily Blunt), and it's love at first sight. Their love wasn't in the cards, but the adjusters can't do anything about it if the two kiss. Yes, a simple smooch is all it takes to render angels powerless.

9. God picks our Presidents, by the way.
So, um, I guess we don't have to vote or anything anymore.

10. Come for the mystery, stay for the fun.
After the movie, I actually heard a real person say the sentence, "I was on the edge of seat the whole time!" And her use of clichéd marketing-speak was justified — it's a fast, fun, and all-in-all good movie. If it had a stronger plot, it could've been a fast, fun, and great movie.