The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, March 04, 2011

The Bourne-Again Identity

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

About three quarters of the way through this totally satisfying fantasy film (and make no mistake: this is Twilight Zone, not Outer Limits territory we're talking about) the filmmakers seemed to remember that this was an American film, and shifted into an action tempo, triggering the pun above.

It fits in the sense that this is a thriller that deals with existential issues that have been wrestled with since time immemorial, probably most familiar to American audiences as Christian theology concerning free will. But that is far too limited a scope.

From the moment Congressman David Norris (Matt Damon) meets VERY cute with dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) the sparks fly, and she inspires him to give a career-saving speech. He encounters her again three years later, and the romance is definitely "on" until Norris is informed by mysterious hat-wearing, unsmiling men (all members of the "Adjustment Bureau" seem to be male. Make of this what you will) that his life has been shaped by powers beyond his control, and he must never see Elise again.

What follows is a mystery, a suspense, a touching love story, an exciting chase. Beautifully acted and directed, especially by the attractive leads. Damon is the best "extraordinary everyman" since Harrison Ford, and if someone wanted to remake "Mr Smith Goes To Washington" I could absolutely see him doing it. Based on a Phillip K. Dick short story ("Adjustment Team") this is a fine piece of philosophical fantasy. Any attempts to actually make sense of this as a science fiction piece would, I think, rapidly devolve to confusion (the "Adjustment Team" knows everything and has apparently infinite technology...but can't give this guy a Roofie so he'll forget the last hour of his life, and meeting this chick? Really?) but if you go with it as a straight-faced fairy tale, it is just...just a terrific film. Heck, there is even a very obvious black Spiritual Guide aspect, and I didn't give a hoot.

I love movies like this, that ask us about love, and will, and fate. Love writers who demand that we work a little for our answers. I've already seen debates about whether "Adjustment Bureau" is SF or fantasy, yada yada.

What I think is that if they believe the original author really cared about niceties like Heinleinian definitions...they don't know Dick.

An "A", and not just for effort.


Atlanta Roofing said...

The ending is somewhat of a foregone conclusion, it still engrosses you in a huge way, and the final twenty minutes are stunning. And this actually contains one of Damon's finest performances--naturalistic, subtle, relatable. Some nice sinister undertones, but it's kept earthbound. Just an overall impressive production in every respect.

Hugh said...

Best summary paragraph ever.