Devil’s DVD Advocacy: The Adjustment Bureau
Let’s face it: the world loves to see Matt Damon run. Why else would he be hoofing it so much? There has to be better ways of escaping danger; the public must be demanding to see his galloping stride. Graciously, for all of Damon’s running, jumping, and space-dimensional warping in The Adjustment Bureau the camera remains steady and the edits are regularly placed so one knows what the hell is going on (*cough* Paul Greengrass *cough*).
What Congressman David Norris (Damon) is running from is his destiny. The pre-ordained script of his life kept in a small ledger and tracked by stylish 60’s-era guardians. Every person must follow his/her fated trail, cannot deviate, sway, or detour from the path lest…lest what? A major flaw of the film is the lack of tension given to the overall premise – there is no gravity or concrete negative consequences specified if one veers off course. Even the guardians don’t know why their task is of such import; they merely follow the orders of an unseen high superior, no questions asked. In place of building dread and a sense of warranted escape is a heavy dose of melodrama. From the outset, even without a trusty life-charting notebook, the audience knows where Damon and Blunt’s story is headed. The moments between the start and end is where Bureau should have excelled.
The major critique is the Adjustment system itself; I hoped for, and expected, cinematic believability akin to Vanilla Sky. The understanding that, yes, I am watching a movie – fictional, scripted, and make-uped – but thinking in the smallest, remotest part of my brain, that it could happen. Perhaps inconspicuous men and women are working behind the scenes, stepping forward to tweak a person’s life when it gets off-track. What if you could see your plan, trace it back to fortuitous waypoints and decisions? Know where you are headed before even a glimpse of a decision enters your life? Would you sit back and accept it or try and change it? Are you really in control of your own life?
But Bureau quickly does away with the existentialism quickly, turning the agents into Matrix-esque caricatures and who don’t understand the need to know why any of this matters. Damon’s ultimate future is boilerplate – and obvious – and without further context is nothing more than a job title. The same goes for Elise (Blunt), his transcendent love interest. By not delving deeper into the ramifications of breaking the rules it becomes almost impossible for Damon to choose any other option. And, given he is privy to these endpoints, could he not write his own script wherein he gets the girl and the power?
The film’s premise is interesting even if not taken to more thought-provoking destinations (I am intrigued to see how the source material differs). The Adjustment Bureau is a worthwhile excursion; it will have one questioning and pondering long after the lights go up – though many of those queries will center on lazy plot holes rather than the struggle of free will versus determinism, which is a shame.