The entire time I was watching The Adjustment Bureau I couldn’t help but think I’m sure they meant to call it The Exposition Bureau. Information is regurgitated at a nauseating rate during this movie just so you know what’s going on. Nothing is left to your imagination. Nothing is left for the viewer to figure out. It’s all spouted out by superfluous characters in order to drive the story forward like a blunt object swinging toward your head.
The Adjustment Bureau is based on a short story by the late sci-fi author Phillip K. Dick. It tells the story of an up and coming young, energetic senator-to-be named David Norris (Matt Damon). Norris isn’t your typical politician, but he tries to be. He tries to schmooze with the crowd and work the room with speeches full of hot button words, but that’s not really him. The real him is the person who got into a drunken bar fight the night of an election. He’s passionate and reckless and unbeknownst to him his life is being planned out and orchestrated by a secret fedora wearing organization.
By design, Norris runs into a striking young lady in the men’s bathroom at a hotel he’s giving a speech at. Elise (Emily Blunt) is just as passionate and spontaneous as David. They instantly feel fireworks. Love at first sight right? Well, it doesn’t matter because that’s not in the cards for David. A higher power is directing his life in ways he couldn’t ever imagine.
When he meets Elise again by happenstance the fedora brigade jumps in and informs David that he was never supposed to meet her again. Without leaving any sort of mystery about themselves they begin to espouse exactly who they are and what they do in such matter-of-fact terms that it makes the existence of a world wide organization that controls people’s lives seem utterly mundane. Think about that for a moment. Here’s an organization that plans and executes, sometimes by affecting even the smallest details of life, people’s lives and their very existence seems boring and rather tedious. Shouldn’t these guys be full of mystery and intrigue? Shouldn’t they exude creepiness as the ultimate big brother watching over the human race? Nope they’re just there doing what they do, and may I add not doing it all that well. You’d think that an organization that’s been around since apparently the dawn of time would have this job down to a science, but sadly they do not. They act more like a bungling group of rookie government agents, than they do an all-knowing and all-seeing divine task force.
David and Elise think that they are meant to be together, but The Plan says otherwise, and the fedora guys are here to make sure that everything goes according to The Plan. The movie devolves into a cat and mouse game where David eludes capture from the fedora guys, finds Elise, only to lose her again. One of the biggest problems is even as David searches high and low for Elise, we still never feel any sort of dramatic pull. The movie is seriously lacking in anything remotely coming close to real, genuine human emotion. The movie is so focused on showing exactly how these mysterious men do everything they do (magic doors!) that they forget about the real story staring them right in the face.
To make matters infinitely worse the ending viciously negates the 100 or so minutes that you just sat through. After all that running, explaining, chasing, and explaining all of it amounts to an ending that feels like a major cop-out. An ending that almost shrugs its shoulders at the audience and says, “Well that’s the best we could come up with. Sorry.” The ending has no guts. It’s far too afraid to follow David and Elise down a path that may not sit well with movie masses. It takes a little bow and wraps everything up perfectly. Nice and neat, so we don’t have to think or feel. What this movie could have used is a Plan of its own from a higher power.