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The Adjustment Bureau(2011)
The affair between a politician and a ballerina is affected by mysterious forces keeping the lovers apart.
For more about The Adjustment Bureau and the The Adjustment Bureau Blu-ray release, see the The Adjustment Bureau Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 15, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: George Nolfi
Writer: George Nolfi
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Michael Kelly, Terence Stamp
» See full cast & crew
The Adjustment Bureau Blu-ray Review
Adjust your expectations.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 15, 2011
The interplay between free will and destiny has led to many a debate within both philosophical and religious circles. Maybe that's why it took an iconic science fiction writer to conveniently marry the two with some sleight of hand and frankly occasionally unexplained elements. Philip K. Dick, the remarkable author whose source stories and novels have given us films as disparate as Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly and Minority Report, posited in his short story The Adjustment Team that there was a group of superhuman (possibly angelic) creatures who were able to subtly shift people's pathways through their lives in order to keep them on some mysterious (and often changing) Plan. That's a really compelling premise for a motion picture, but unfortunately The Adjustment Bureau ends up being a weird concatenation of some quasi-thriller mystery elements wrapped around a core that is kind of like the ultimate Chick Flick—you know, the kind where True Love can't be undone by Bad Things happening to Beautiful People. The Adjustment Bureau was marketed in a post-Inception landscape and its teaser emphasized a couple of CGI elements as well as the supposedly "mind bending" aspects of the story, neither of which are ultimately all that important to the film's central conceit. This is at its most basic simply a love story between two people who feel they're fated to be with each other while the universe (including some superhuman angelic creatures) seems to be doing everything to keep them apart.
Matt Damon portrays New York Congressman David Norris, an up and comer who is running for Senate. The opening montage features a number of well known real life New York politicos and pundits, including Michael Bloomberg, Terry McAuliffe, Madeleine Albright, Wesley Clark and just for good measure Jon Stewart (who also pops up later in the film). Norris seems to be a shoe-in for the senate seat until a college prank video of him is released which seems eerily prescient of the current Weiner-gate scandal, down to James Carville and Mary Matalin opining in a cameo in this film that Norris is acting like a "14 year old." Election night is a debacle for Norris and when he escapes into the men's room to craft his concession speech, he "meets cute" with free spirit Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt). Within literally seconds, the two are in a major clinch and realize they were "meant for each other." Only in the movies.
That's when The Adjustment Bureau becomes strangely schizophrenic. It turns out the superpowered Bureau operatives, all of whom wear fedoras, caps and other headgear (an important plot point, believe it or not), are intent on keeping David and Elise apart. David stumbles into the Bureau going about their "adjustment" work and the curtain is ripped from this supposedly secret organization. Middle management guy Richardson (John Slattery, Mad Men) gets involved, revealing as much about the Adjustment Bureau as he's allowed to to David, but telling him David must stay away from Elise, and that if he doesn't, he'll be "reset," which is a nice way of saying his mind will be completely blanked and he'll be something akin to a lobotomized mental patient. That leads to a series of on-again off-again sequences with Elise that span the course of several years. It's an odd and rather off-putting aspect to The Adjustment Bureau which works against its putative aims to be yet another "mind-bending thriller." The only mind being bended seems to be David's, as he waffles back and forth between chasing after Elise and then leaving her cold when the Bureau threatens him, probably leading many in the audience to be screaming out in frustration, "Make up your mind, already!"
It's probably somewhat unfair to fault The Adjustment Bureau for its many improbabilities, not to mention its outright absurdities. After all, science fiction is the domain of the unusual, the weird, the inexplicable and the unexplained. But so much of what happens in The Adjustment Bureau is so completely arbitrary that it simply strains credulity and removes any palpable sense of threat from David and Elise. The superpowered quasi-angels can do any number of things with a mere flick of their finger, and yet they can't seem to prevent David from pursuing Elise. Part of this is supposedly explained away by the workings of "chance," which in this film's universe coexists side by side with The Plan which the Bureau is nudging along. But huge swaths of this film simply do not make sense even within the context of the film itself. Without spoiling anything, why exactly is The Bureau so intent on aiding Norris' political ambitions? Do they need some sort of puppet down the line? And why, once the Upper Middle Management Bureau chieftain Thompson (Terence Stamp in an amusing cameo) gets involved, does Thompson warn Norris that Norris only has the "appearance" of having free will? If humans are under the thumb of The Bureau, it makes this very central plot conceit of David defying The Bureau completely baffling.
This is not to say that the film is a total waste. There's an appealing sense of urgency which Damon and Blunt manage to invest the film with, and Blunt especially proves she can carry a film with a sympathetic portrayal. Nolfi also does exceptional work utilizing a ton of New York City locations to help infuse The Adjustment Bureau with a properly claustrophobic and, well, bureaucratic ambience that contrasts rather neatly with David and Elise's more individualistic impulses.
Ultimately, though, The Adjustment Bureau falls prey to too many contrivances and weird shifts in tone. A couple of passing attempts at humor seem completely out of place, but even putting those aside, this film can't quite decide if it wants to be a star-crossed lovers romantic fantasy or a sort of Inception-lite attempt at morphing reality in unexpected ways. The Adjustment Bureau is a fitfully compelling enterprise that really could have used a few more adjustments itself before it made it onto the big screen.
The Adjustment Bureau Blu-ray, Video Quality
Evidently the "codec wars" aren't quite as settled as a lot of people had assumed, as this is the second major release in the past week or so I've reviewed which is presented with a VC-1 encode rather than AVC. Some videophiles have claimed to be able to see supposedly noticeable differences in transfers using these two preferred codecs, with AVC supposedly being superior, but you'd be hard pressed to prove that with the mostly sterling results offered by The Adjustment Bureau. This 1080p 1.85:1 presentation offers gorgeously varied hues, especially remarkable in that Nolfi has intentionally filtered so much of this film (as he discusses in his commentary track) toward, at various times, the cool blue or the blanched sepia ends of the spectrum. In fact when we finally get some natural looking light at the end of the film, it's something of a relief. Through it all, though, the image remains impeccably sharp, with abundant fine detail, natural looking grain, and appealing, if at times strangely filtered, color. About the only niggling concern for most will be some minor crush, which is perhaps more apparent than it might have been simply because so much of this film plays out in shadowy, dimly lit environments.
The Adjustment Bureau Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Adjustment Bureau's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is surprisingly spacious and at times incredibly immersive, somewhat at odds with the often claustrophobic paranoiac feel of the rest of the film. From the opening campaign moments, when David Norris is surrounded by a throng of adoring fans, we're immediately thrust into the center of a very active soundscape, and the surround activity is very smartly assembled for the rest of the film. The most completely immersive moments are in the many location exterior shots throughout New York, where the city's manic ambience comes fully to life, but even in some interior shots, as in the final chase scene, there are some fantastic foley effects popping up around the soundfield, and such everyday items as scurrying footsteps nicely pan through the soundfield with aplomb. There's a perhaps surprising lack of bombastic underscore here, but that actually benefits the film. Dialogue is clear, occasionally panned well, and is very well mixed within the overall environmental sound effects.
The Adjustment Bureau Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Adjustment Bureau Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Your personal appreciation and enjoyment of The Adjustment Bureau is most likely going to be geared more than usual to your expectations of what kind of film you think you're about to see. If you're in the mood for a sort of Matrix meets Inception CGI-fest with a quasi-hallucinogenic take on the nature of reality, you're more than likely to be sorely disappointed in this film. If, on the other hand, you want nothing more than an OK chick flick, with lovers fighting against impossible (and even supernatural) odds, you'll probably find a lot to like in The Adjustment Bureau, despite its logical deficiencies and tonal imbalances. For those on the fence about which camp they're in, a rental would probably be the best bet.
The Adjustment Bureau: Other Editions
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The Adjustment Bureau Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray - June 21-27 - June 21, 2011
Marketing can make or break a file, and in some cases, change the way a film is initially perceived. Such is the case with today's Blu-ray release of The Adjustment Bureau, where a post-Inception landscape forced marketers to focus on the entire "reality isn't ...
• Exclusive Giveaway: The Adjustment Bureau - June 16, 2011
Blu-ray.com and Universal Studios Home Entertainment are giving away ten copies of The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, John Slattery, Anthony Mackie and Terence Stamp. The film, an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story, arrives on Blu-ray ...
• The Adjustment Bureau Blu-ray in June - April 19, 2011
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced that The Adjustment Bureau will be coming to Blu-ray on June 21st. Based on a Philip K. Dick short story, George Nolfi's science-fiction thriller follows two lovers (Matt Damon and Emily Blunt) who are chased by ...
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