Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Philip K. Dick’s work is stuff of sci-fi legend – thought-provoking allegorical insights into identity and authority. It’s the kind of heady material that has been translated to celluloid to varying degrees of success over the years. Blade Runner and Total Recall were acceptable quality adaptations while films like Paycheck and Next were absolutely hackneyed.
Gorge Nolfi’s (The Sentinel, Hawaii Five-O) is the latest filmmaker to try to bring to life Dick’s metaphysical musings to the big screen, this time with a feature loosely based on a short story entitled The Adjustment Team. Re-dubbed to the cooler sounding The Adjustment Bureau, this adaptation falls very much into the latter category.
This version takes place in modern day Manhattan and follows a handsome, rising politician destined for greatness named David Norris (Matt Damon). David is on the verge of being elected the youngest New York senator before a scandal revolving a harmless juvenile prank pulled during his college reunion derails his campaign.
While prepping his concession speech in the toilet, David chance encounters beautiful modern dancer, Elise (Emily Blunt). They seem perfect for each other from the get-go and share an intense chemistry. However all desperate attempts for David to forge a relationship with the gorgeous Elise in the coming months and years are thwarted by cosmic forces.
A seemingly omniscient group called The Adjustment Bureau led by snappily dressed agents in fedoras (played by Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp and John Slattery) are the puppet masters of the world. When events don’t go according to The Plan, they have to nudge it in the right direction – and true love between David and Elise isn’t in the schedule.
While the film is fun and breezy, it’s silly treatment of its sci-fi elements prevent it from gaining any real-world grounding – no matter how many cameos from Michael Bloomberg and Jon Stewart they can score. It becomes plainly obvious that Nolfi has no handle on the premise’s thematic purpose. Rich philosophical ideas such as the nature of free will are quickly brushed aside in favour of chase sequences.
This all-powerful group apparently only have any power when they’re wearing their bowler hats and stay away from water – which might be difficult when you’re on an island with frequent rainfall, so yeah, there’s that. They choose the most roundabout and obtuse ways of enacting their plans which also suggests that omniscience isn’t all that great without intelligence.
It’s a shame the sci-fi story is so poorly thought-out because the performances by Damon and Blunt are magnificent. David and Elise’s romance is palpable and visceral. Both leads have done such a fine job putting forth believable, likeable and fully-fleshed out protagonists so it’s a little sad that their good work is undoneby such a trite storyline.
One wishes this potentially mind-bending story coupled with top-notch acting talent could have been put in the hands of someone like Charlie Kaufman or Christopher Nolan instead but you can’t have them all I guess.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini is 24-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.