It could’ve been tinkered with a little…
Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, John Slattery, and Anthony Mackie. Directed by George Nolfi. Based on the story “Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick.
Who’da thunk that a Philip K. Dick could churn out a love story? Huh.
When we last left PKD-Land, Hollywood had a string of hits (and maybe some misses) based on the science fiction authors’ work just in the past decade alone. There was the mind-control drug of the future in “A Scanner Darkly,” with Woody Harrelson, Keanu Reeves, and Winona Ryder. “Next” had Nicolas Cage as a Vegas magician able to see moments into the future. “Minority Report” had Tom Cruise as a law enforcement official who stops crimes before they are committed only to be setup in one himself. Ben Affleck was a “reverse engineer” who went, did a job, then had his memory erased before finding out that he’s wanted for treason and murder. And let’s not forget “Screamers,” “Total Recall,” and “Blade Runner.”
What we have here is PDK-lite which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Dick is known for his themes of conspiracy, omnipotent control, people caught in bad situations, etc. And these themes apply here but the real question is: what constitutes fate/destiny? Do we live our lives by the design of others whether surface-level or omnipotent? Or do we take our lives in our own hands and make them our own?
David Norris (Damon) is the young, piss-and-vinegar hotshot next New York state Senator. He has the support of the younger generation. A bar fight that saw him thrown into jail is splashed over the pages of the tabloids and he recovers from it. There’s a genuine authenticity about how his political game is played.
One night before giving a concession speech he meets Elise Sellas (Blunt), a dancer who hid in the men’s restroom to evade cops chasing her because she crashed someone’s wedding party. Instantly Norris and Sellas have chemistry but she leaves and he has to get back to his political campaign.
Enter Harry Mitchell (Mackie) of the Adjustment Bureau. Harry has been spending a good chunk of his time watching over Norris. He keeps a black book, like the others of his team, which “projects” a person’s life along a timeline with stops and “do not go” areas. One particular morning he misses out on a job he was supposed to be doing in order to keep Norris on the correct timeline. Norris meets up with Sellas again, their chemistry re-sparks, and all is well with them. This does not bode well with the Bureau.
Harry is part of a team that consists of other agents ran by Richardson (Slattery). Richardson is pissed because he makes it a point to adhere to how a person’s timeline should go. In this case it means that David and Elise should NOT be together, no matter what the cost. They do everything in their power to separate them from messing with phones to traffic, etc.
During one point in time David is exposed to who the Bureau is and what they can do. They can “suggest” things to people and affect an amount of telekinesis but that cannot force a person to do anything. They wear hats and have the ability to open a door that literally shortcuts to other places. Holding David hostage they make him promise not to be with Elise and not to say anything about them.
Which David complies with until, years later, he meets Elise again and once again… his trajectory is thrown off. Richardson and the rest of the bureau are hellbent to make sure that he stays on his path: becoming an important U.S. Senator who will be continually re-elected. Elise is supposed to become a world renown dancer. Neither of these trajectories will occur if both decide to be together. The race is on as David and Elise try to outrun and outwit the Adjustment Bureau.
Which brings me to the central point of the film: what are our lives? Do we control who we are and where we go or are we merely following suggestions, programming, protocol, etc.? Do we live up to our potential or is or potential already written for us? Do dreams seemingly squandered happen because we let them or because they were supposed to? Thesis papers can be written on these quandaries.
I liked the movie a lot. Some proclaim it to be a good “date movie” and it is. And for those of you who can’t imagine PDK writing a love story well… he may not have but he has elements of it in his stories. There are some reviewers who say that Nolfi didn’t go far enough but sometimes you don’t have to when you make the case or message that your work portrays. Sometimes the message is enough.
Skipping to the end the overall message is: true love trumps all. On a positive note it’s not overly sappy; the end justifies the means. Damon and Blunt work well together and make it believable. The rest of the cast chimes in as well.
Is this one worth checking into? I say so. At the very least it’s a rental with no harm done.
My grade: B