The Adjustment Bureau

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            "If you ever reveal what you've seen, we'll erase your brain." That's just one of the threats wielded by the people who run The Adjustment Bureau. Their mission is to administer the covert control of human behavior that is already within their power. "We are the people who make sure things happen according to plan." They are a band of bureaucrats from another dimension who make sure we all stay on our assigned paths. They don't mess with emotions though - "Too intrusive," they say. If we deviate for one unpredicted reason or another from our plan, the bureau will "make an adjustment." The adjustment could be a partial brain erasure or a behavior correction that throws us back on track.
            The planners aren't villains in the true sense. In the same way that parents set the daily schedules for small children, this invisible group sets the schedules and blueprints for everyone throughout life. What might life be like if parents, or another force, had the undetectable power to monitor us beyond childhood and to reset the deviations? This is an intriguing invitation to consider fate and free will - a neat premise for a good thriller.
            David Norris (Matt Damon) learns all this the hard way when he reports to his new job and stumbles accidentally on the Adjustment Bureau as they are making a "personal adjustment" to the office staff. All employees are for a moment frozen in place while the adjustment is made. After witnessing this extraordinary scene, David is told he is free to return to his own life as long as he reveals his discovery to no one and never deviates from his life's path. Penalty for deviation: brain erasure. Uh Oh. We all know what happens when we fall in love.
            David meets Elise (Emily Blunt), and the die is cast. Recognizing instant love when he sees it, Bureau handler Richardson (John Slattery) resets David so that for three full years he searches in vain for Elise. Chief Richardson's final warning: if you stay together, you lose your dreams and she loses hers. In spite of his lofty political ambitions and her dreams of success in dance, Elise and David decide to pursue life and free will together. This full scale deviation from the plan brings on the story's hyper action chase.
            By managing to generate on film the chemistry of old fashioned romance, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have lifted the movie right up and out of the ordinary. Beyond their happy physical connection, there is the obvious delight each has in the company of the other, a feeling of wondrous surprise at finding each other. That's the hardest kind of assignment for actors, and these two convey a spontaneous, effortless joy that puts us right there beside them as they navigate the obstacles strewn in their paths by the Bureau. How about that for a welcome gift in these cynical times?


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