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  • 12A
  • Action, Adventure
  • 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Film4 The Adjustment Bureau


Politician David Norris (Matt Damon) shares a kiss with a stranger (Emily Blunt), then bumps into her again randomly. Soon strange men arrive and insist they stay apart. Also starring Terence Stamp

Critic's Review

The Adjustment Bureau. Now there's a sexy title. 'Adjustment' conjures all manner of cinematic visions, from a pensioner on his mid-morning stroll painstakingly realigning a wayward flannel gusset, to the more pertinent image of an accountant assiduously ensuring his web of financial fictions rings true.

Actually, the "adjustment bureau" here consists of grey men in hats who apparently run our lives in secret behind the scenes and can reset our memories. It's a little like if Men In Black was recast with an army of John Majors, and about as sexy as that sounds.

Luckily for the film's marketing department, the duff title is off-set by the presence here of two of current cinema's most appealing stars, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. Furthermore, a magazine was obliging enough to headline the film as "Bourne meets Inception", though whether this breathless quote was composed after seeing the film or simply after reading the publicity materials is an intriguing question.

Actually neither the sinew-snapping action sequences nor breathtakingly panoramic effects called to mind by the Bourne/Inception sell are The Adjustment Bureau's strong suits. The film opens well, powered on Damon's charisma, and reels us in with some sweet chemistry between his political hotshot and Emily Blunt's ballet dancer. Unfortunately, it then completely loses the plot by becoming nothing but plot: antagonists explaining the plot, heroes railing against the plot, antagonists explaining the plot again - it's all tell and no show.

Although based on the Cold War paranoia era Philip K Dick short story Adjustment Team, not much of the source material remains. But in stretching out the one-line premise - that agents exist who alter humankind's fate according to their masterplan - to feature-film length and using exposition, of all things, to bulk up the runtime, promising writer-director George Nolfi has misunderstood what can make this type of paranoid thriller so gripping. We need to feel worried that They're controlling us, not worried that They're about to give us a stern explanation.

In a nutshell: All mealy mouth and no action trousers, although Matt Damon and Emily Blunt spark nicely together.

By Catherine Bray

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Terence Stamp, Jon Stewart, Matt Damon, John Slattery, Emily Blunt
  • Director: George Nolfi
  • Screen Writer: George Nolfi
  • Writer (Story): Philip K Dick
  • Photographer: John Toll
  • Composer: Thomas Newman

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