In the past year or so, we've seen three really good examples of science fiction--and get this, none of them feature aliens, intergalactic space battles, or superpowered uber-men. Duncan Jones' "Moon," Christopher Nolan's "Inception," and, now, George Nolfi's "The Adjustment Bureau" don't recreate entire worlds from scratch, they just gave our existing one a little fantastical goose in order to tell very human stories.
Of the three, Nolfi's has the most kinks, but it's still a movie that we have no qualms about recommending. You may not need to own "The Adjustment Bureau," but you should definitely see it.
Matt Damon stars as a rising politico from New York who, on the same evening he sees his hopes for a Senate seat dashed, has a chance meeting with a beautiful dancer played by Emily Blunt. She inspires him to make a painfully honest concession speech that actually bolsters his appeal and positions him for a comeback in the next election. The budding romance starts to hit some speed bumps, however, thanks to a cadre of mysterious (and possibly supernatural) men in hats who seem intent on prying the couple apart by any means necessary. The story is adapted from the Philip K. Dick short story "The Adjustment Team."
Damon and Blunt are, no joke, one of the best onscreen couples we've seen in a while. Not only a good physical match, they make their "meet cute" banter actually feel plausible and fun (the best since Clooney/Lopez). If this movie had been a straight romantic drama, it would still work. We also tip a hat (hey now) to the underrated Anthony Mackie, who plays his shadowy role with such a palatable world weariness that it comes as no surprise that (mild spoiler) he's been doing his job for a really long time. Someone please (we're looking at you Quentin "Django Unchained" Tarantino) give this guy a marquee role.
The movie is sleek and engaging and moves at a pace that should serve as a guideline for every other filmmaker - although we have to admit that Nolfi's speed does cause the movie to swerve a little bit. Once Damon learns what exactly the "adjustment bureau" does (which happens much earlier than you'd expect), he kind of comes across as….oddly OK with it. He accepts what's given to him too quickly, and while it keeps the movie moving it doesn't ring true. And - without spoiling it too much - the vaguely religious overtones are, well, just a little too trite and easy to carry any weight beyond the end credits.
On Blu-ray, "Adjustment Bureau" serves up an effectively cold and lived-in New York and mercifully avoids the ol' swirling camera around a Times Square kiss. The filmmakers are clearly proud of their non-cliches, as they dedicate an entire featurette to location scouting and shooting. Overall, though, the Blu-ray is not really all that jam-packed with goodies. "The Labyrinth of Doors" interactive map is a cute idea, but feels like a lot of work for little payoff. And we actually feel bad watching the mini-doc "Becoming Elise" because Blunt put so much work into becoming a convincing modern dancer for what amounts to 1 minute of total screen time.
Overall, though, this is a highly recommended movie - if just to remind yourself that science fiction can actually be made for adults who put their toys away years ago.