Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Directed by: George Nolfi
Produced by: George Nolfi; Chris Moore; Michael Hackett; Bill Carraro; Isa Dick Hackett; Joel Viertel
Screenplay by: George Nolfi; Based on "Adjustment Team" by Philip K. Dick
Starring: Matt Damon; Emily Blunt
Music by: Thomas Newman
Cinematography: John Toll
Release date: March 4, 2011
Running time: 106 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $50 million

There has been a whole range of science fiction fantasy that try to understand the existence and purpose of God as the supreme being and his relationship with us, humans. In most cases, the idea of this God stems from the Judeo-Christina philosophy. Therefore, with God comes his minions, the angels, and while we talk about angels, we cannot just ignore Satan, can we? He was God’s favourite archangel, and his first enemy.

In Phillip Pullman’s smart and controversial His Dark Material trilogy, God is called Authority, and he (yes, he) is an old decrepit man who dies before the novel is over.

When we discuss God, what figures prominently is the man’s purpose in life, in the universe. Who are we? Why do we do what we do? Is life a random series of chance, or is there someone who guides us, like the Bible says, a shepherd?

These are some of the questions that the Matt Damon starrer The Adjustment Bureau seeks to answer. In the beginning of the film, Damon’s David asks one of those mysterious characters: “Are you an angel?” The mystery man answers: “We have been called that. But we are more like case officers. And we live longer than the humans.” Nice.

Like vampires, angels are mystery characters. So, there are scopes to invent things for them — like how much power would they have, their dress code, their physical appearance (here, one looks like Terrence Stamp and another Anthony Mackie, what a contrast), whether they would have wings or not (And, I am not discussing Wim Wender’s fantastic Wings of Desire and its American clone City of Angels.)

In The Adjustment Bureau, based on a short story by Philip K Dick, The Adjustment Team, they are case officers whose job is to maintain the plan made by the Chairman (the God), and see that the humans don't deviate from it. The film’s logic accepts the Christian idea of Free Will. They can help people to a certain extent, where these case officers will have no power. They can travel anywhere in New York by opening a few doors. They wear hats to be able to do so, and their abilities are at their lowest near water.

The plot-slot involves a young politician with a complicated past, who has the potential to become the President one day. The day he loses an election, he meets a girl at the man’s room, and it’s love at the first sight. The couple meet again and exchange numbers. Soon, David encounters those mystery men who tell him that he must stay away from the girl, Elise. Why? Because that’s the plan. If it’s so, why do they feel the attraction for each other in the first place?

From here, the film becomes a fascinating cross between science fiction thriller and a tender love story, and in most places it succeeds. There is a palpable chemistry between Damon and Emily Blunt. Blunt is essentially a comic actor. Serious roles like in The Wolfman or The Young Victoria doesn’t suit her. She was at her best in The Devil Wears Prada. Here she gets to explore her comic side, with great support from Damon.

As usual, it’s the climax that dampens. As Roger Ebert says, it’s a good movie which could have been great.

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