The fate vs. free will love story ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ only needs a few tune-ups, but can stand well untouched

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt play lovers fighting the mysterious forces with other plans for them in the action-filled fantasy romance 'The Adjustment Bureau.'

Some people believe that we ourselves are responsible for the choices we make. Others believe in chance. In The Adjustment Bureau, there is also the existence of a suspicious body of officers that believe in a predestined plan for everyone, and in ensuring that plan is followed. These ideas come into play to shape the life of a politician and his love affair with a dancer—and the clash results into potential terror in this ultra-modern and intelligent romantic thriller.

Based on the “Adjustment Team” by Phillip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau explores the everyday duties of the titled body, but mostly delves into their interference with David Norris (Matt Damon), a New York senatorial candidate. While rehearsing his concession speech in a bathroom, he meets a free-spirited young woman named Elise (Emily Blunt), and the two share a mutual instant chemistry.  Neither expect to see the other again—but they do, three years later, in what is said to be a chance meeting. David is now working as part of a venture capital firm and Elise is revealed to be a contemporary dancer in a company. The two develop the relationship they could have started years ago, but when David is captured by the agents of Fate, he becomes threatened with warnings of his and Elise’s futures if they go against the plan, and what could happen to him if he reveals their doings. While the adjustment bureau, which includes the authoritative Richardson (John Slattery) and Thompson (Terence Stamp), are seen as adversaries, agent Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) appears sympathetic to David and eventually helps him in his fight versus fate. But ultimately, it is choice that will make David put up a fight to be with Elise, while keeping both of their career aspirations intact.

From the trailer and marketing campaign, The Adjustment Bureau appears to be a heart racing action film, and it is, though the action sequences consist mostly of chase sequences. They’re not showy, proving that films don’t necessarily need stunning excess visuals to be entertaining or intense. Then there are the fantasy/sci-fi elements, bringing in people whose functions serve to control life’s events, even freezing people in place and taking a hold of doorways leading to the most impossible and unpredictable places. Though a different film from—using the most recent and reminiscent example—Inception, it’s similar in its mindbending concept and expository script, with the need to explain the differentiations between fate and “the plan” and what the adjustment bureau does.

But beneath the chases, car crashes, and exploring the wicked deeds of the mysterious agents—and perhaps the most poignant aspect of the film—is the love story of David and Elise. Though there’s not enough compensation for the time they were apart, the movie has a tale for each character, which both contribute to their growing adoration for each other. The development of their relationship—from their first meeting and their fated reunion to reuniting again in the last minutes of the movie—is sweet yet deep and the true heart of the story. There is a sense of joy for the audience whenever they are together, even if dread is looming above. Like they feel, it’s as if nothing else could matter as long as they are in each other’s presence. Damon and Blunt share incredible sparks that are natural and not at all contrived—fate says they were meant to play lovers in a film like this.

The faults of The Adjustment Bureau are plot holes in the script and its sometimes slow-moving pace and the ending, for a movie that delivers a rush throughout, felt more like a pop than the bang it deserved. It can certainly feel a little bit disappointing when that pop comes, but overall, it doesn’t invalidate  the movie as a whole—it still truly delivers. The cast, particularly the two leads, gives wonderful performances and its intriguing stories about fate and the people who want to defy it make for a fun, smart, and sentimental movie. With its clever, almost-outworldly background and its romance, both heartfilling and heartbreaking, about lovers who truly are “star-crossed,” The Adjustment Bureau delightfully contradicts the typical sci-fi action movie by giving it something abstract and a real and meaningful love—but it’s all thanks to the choices of the people who created it.


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