Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau: An unconventional love story

The Adjustment Bureau (Romance, Sci-Fi, Thriller)
Directed by George Nolfi
Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Anthony Mackie

Universal Studios | 2011 | 106 min | Rated PG-13 | Released Jun 21, 2011

Video codec: VC-1
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French: DTS 5.1
Spanish: DTS 5.1

English SDH, French, Spanish

50GB Blu-ray Disc
DVD copy
Digital copy (on disc)

The Film 4/5

I almost went to see The Adjustment Bureau at the theater, but generally negative reviews made me decide to wait for the Blu-ray release. The same was true of Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, also starring Matt Damon. I’m going to have to trust my instincts more because I found both movies entertaining.

So why the negative reviews?

What do you expect from a Matt Damon movie? His biggest role was as Jason Bourne in the hugely successful trilogy and I think he’s expected to be an action hero in every role he plays. That’s simply not the case. The man can act and he has a lot more to offer than some give him credit for. The marketing for The Adjustment Bureau is selling it as an action movie, but it’s actually a love story with a science fiction element. The front cover shows Damon and Blunt running. They do run in the movie, but that’s not the point of the story.

This is not an action movie.

David Norris (Damon) is running for Senate and he’s losing. He meets Elise (Blunt) in a bathroom and they kiss. A brief conversation influences his concession speech and he decides to be completely honest with the assembled crowd. This is not typical behavior for a politician. The entire meeting was arranged without his knowledge just for the purpose of influencing his speech.

We are introduced to four men in suits and hats. They look like the Men in Black. What is their origin and why and how are they trying to influence events? One has an assignment to delay Norris by making him spill coffee on his shirt, but he fails to intervene in time. As a result, Norris walks into his office and sees the men altering the memories of his colleagues. He runs, but is quickly caught. They make him promise to keep their secret. They also demand that he drops any interest in Elise as the two aren’t supposed to be together.

Norris isn’t ready to give up on Elise and feels strongly attracted to her. He searches for years and eventually tracks her down. The Adjustment Bureau fails to anticipate his resourcefulness and level of determination. In order to prevent the relationship, other methods are tried to tear the two apart. Norris is given some strong reasons to walk away from Elise. Will they be enough, or will his attraction toward her prove to be too strong?

Philip K. Dick wrote the short story on which the movie is based. He was also responsible for Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which resulted in Blade Runner being made. I’m not saying that the Adjustment Bureau is on the same level, but it’s certainly a thought-provoking story worthy of your time.

Think about fate and predestination for a moment. Do you live your life thinking that every step has been mapped out? If that were the case, why bother to do anything? Do you think that your overall destination has been decided, but it’s up to you how you get there? That would at least give your actions some meaning. Or do you think that everything is random and there’s no reason or purpose behind anything we do? The Adjustment Bureau raises similar questions. You might be able to predict how the movie ends, but the fun is experiencing the journey.

Emily Blunt has good chemistry with Damon and the casting was spot on. She had to learn how to look like a ballet dancer for the part and she was utterly convincing in the role.  

I love the Bourne movies, but I’m a fan of Damon’s acting in general. It dates back to Good Will Hunting and Rounders. In fact, I’ve rarely seen Damon disappoint. Hereafter and The Adjustment Bureau will stay in my collection and I’m happy to own them. If you give The Adjustment Bureau a try without expecting an action movie, you might end up enjoying it as much as I did.

Video Quality 4/5
While most recent releases use the MPEG-4 AVC codec, The Adjustment Bureau uses VC-1. The result isn’t bad, but I’ve seen more striking presentations. Grain is moderately thick and detail is average. Many of the scenes have an intentional blue tint, but colors are otherwise accurate. I wouldn’t complain about the picture quality, but it’s far from exceptional.

Audio Quality 4/5
The English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix does a good job for the most part. Dialogue is clear, apart from in noisy settings when it’s not supposed to be. When Norris is talking to the crowds of people, the atmosphere seems realistic and sounds are separated well. There are no gunshots or explosions, but the sound quality is good throughout.

Special Features 2.5/5

Audio Commentary by Writer/Director George Nolfi.

Deleted and Extended Scenes (6:54)

Labyrinth of Doors – A Google Map allowing you to explore various parts of New York. Each door offers a small feature; normally under a minute long. It’s a lot of work to navigate through everything and the reward doesn’t seem worth it.

Leaping Through New York (7:36) – Showing the wide range of locations used during the shoot.

Destined to Be (4:51) – Damon and Blunt talk about the casting process and their characters.

Becoming Elise (7:08) – How Blunt learned how to become a dancer for the role. Acting can be hard!

The Adjustment Bureau asks some interesting questions. It’s well-acted and kept my interest for the 106-minute duration. The mystery element and slow exposition have the effect of placing the viewer in the same situation as David Norris, and it works effectively. If you go in with the right expectations (not anticipating explosions and constant action), the story has a lot to offer.

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