Monday, March 14, 2011

"The Adjustment Bureau" was full of promise, but delivered tarnished goods & plot holes: B-

It's difficult to write a review for a movie like "The Adjustment Bureau." With an even 70/70 split between critics and audiences on RT, it's clear that most people were satisfied with it. I'm frustrated, because I wanted to fall in love with this movie so badly! But it simply didn't happen for me...why?

Let me start off my explaining that the movie gets off to a very exciting start. We meet David (Matt Damon), an energetic New Yorker who runs for Senate. While preparing for a campaign speech in the men's bathroom of the Waldorf Hotel, he meets Elise (Emily Blunt). The flirting begins, sparks fly, and it's quite clear that David and Elise are destined to fall in love. **PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD**

After losing the race, David returns to work. Unbeknownest to him, he is being watched by Mitchell, (Anthony Mackie) the man in charge of monitoring his life path. One morning, Mitchell is instructed by a man named Richardson (John Slattery) to ensure that David spills coffee on his shirt at exactly 7:05am, in order to prevent David from hopping on the bus that Elise is on (also unbeknownest to David). But Mitchell falls asleep and is thus unable to trip up David as he walks through the park. In short, David and Elise have another encounter - but this was not supposed to happen, since Mitchell was told to make sure that David didn't get on that bus.

So now the plan is all screwed up and Mitchell is in deep trouble. To correct the mistake, Richardson decides to unveil to David who they are why the Adjustment Bureau exists. He explains to David that he must never see Elise again - that it is not part of his life path - and proceeds to destroy the phone number Elise gave to David on the bus (of course, he didn't store it in his Blackberry, but on a piece of paper).

"Oooh! Hey, mista! Can I have your Bourne identity - err, I mean - autograph?"

Flash forward eleven months or so, and David attempts to make contact with Elise. We are now introduced to Thompson a.k.a. The Hammer (Terence Stamp), the man entrusted to end this charade once and for all. He tells David that one day, Elise will be an important dancer and choreographer, and that David will one day be President of the United States - and if they stay together, both of their dreams will be crushed. Thompson then proceeds to sprain Elise's ankle mid-performance with some kind of swish-and-flick motion. While he's with her at the hospital, David comes to the conclusion that he'd be better off leaving Elise so as not to ruin her future.

Flash forward (again?!) three years, when David discovers that Elise is getting married. With the help of Mitchell and his magical fedora, David goes on a daring mission to put a stop to her marriage and defy the orders of Thompson and Richardson. By the end of the movie, after David has rescued Elise and they are face-to-face with Thompson, Mitchell reveals that almighty The Chairman has decided to allow David and Elise to be together since they were able to make their own fate.

I keep reading reviews that compare the plot of "The Adjustment Bureau" to that of "Inception." Let me make one thing very clear: "Inception" was not as tedious or tiring as this. Here's some issues I have with the story, as I read over the preceding 5 paragraphs:

- It is explained in the film that the men who work for the Adjustment Bureau are not human. Why, then, does Mitchell make a HUGE human mistake by falling asleep on the job?
- How exactly do the magical fedoras work? How is possible that once David puts one on, he suddenly has the same door-to-door privileges as Richardson or Mitchell? Wouldn't The Chairman/God ensure that the fedoras could only be utilized by Bureau members?
- Am I supposed to believe that David's love for Elise is suddenly reinvigorated after three years just because he sees the marriage announcement in the paper? Was he too busy campaigning to think of a way to get her back within those 3 years?
- How exactly does surrounding water and rain make it harder for Richardson and Thompson to track David? This concept is introduced, but it is never explained.
- Mitchell later implies to David that he has met The Chairman before, that The Chairman comes in all different forms depending on the individual. This comes up at the tail end of the movie, for what purpose?
- Richardson later reveals that a previous plan allowed for David and Elise to be together, but it was scrapped and re-written. The "chance" encounters, he explains, are remnants of that previous plan. WTF? Why introduce this part of the story so late in the game?

This was movie was full of potential. I even got teary-eyed when I watched the damn trailer! But "The Adjustment Bureau" simply has too many errors in the plot for me to ignore. Go ahead and watch it - you may very well love it and if you do, that's great and I'm happy for you.


  1. I mentioned this in my review - one's enjoyment of the film comes down to whether or not they are willing to run with the concept.

    If you don't "buy" the notion of fate and how it can be tinkered with, the movie won't play for you.

    Good review - too bad you didn't dig it.

  2. It's a breezy film masquerading as a sincere one, and while that's obnoxious, it's hard to hate a fun night at the movies. Good Review!

  3. @ Hatter: I believed the philosophy of the movie up until the 3rd act. When Mitchell assisted David in getting Elise back by giving him the fedora and "training" him on the doors, I lost interest. Thank you for your comfort, I'm sad that this movie didn't do more for me.

    @ Dan O: I think you described it perfectly. Something about this movie felt forced. Thank you for your compliment.

  4. Good review, Rachel. I agree about Mitchell falling asleep. Angel or no Angel-like being, what the FRAK is up with that? I normally let things slide, but that I found all loads of dumb.

    As for David's love for Elise the eleven months later/three years later (whichever one), it's not like it just disappeared. I just figure he put logic and his career ahead of him and decided not to do a damn thing, and then just gave into impulse when he saw/heard the marriage announcement, and decided that no matter what, he's gonna get her. The ending scene with Mitchell talking about David having met The Chairman before - didn't have a problem with it. Really, it's no worse than those twisty SAW moments where something that really coulda been useful early on only shows up at the end. Didn't have any problem with Richardson telling David about the Plan and the "chance" encounters later on in the story, personally.


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