Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Short Take: The Adjustment Bureau

This review was originally published on Pol Culture.

As the star-crossed lovers at the center of The Adjustment Bureau, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have an extraordinary romantic chemistry onscreen. They and writer-director George Nolfi immediately establish the rapport between the couple in their scenes together. As the characters play off each other, the humor, warmth, and happiness between them builds and blossoms. In these moments, the film is giddy love-story bliss. One can’t help but wish Nolfi would just focus on the pair and jettison the gimmicky sf-fantasy framework. The script is based on concepts in the 1954 Philip K. Dick story “Adjustment Team." It posits a world secretly guided at times by supernatural beings who call themselves The Bureau (played by John Slattery, Anthony Mackie, and Terence Stamp, among others). These trenchcoat-and-fedora-clad guardian angels have determined that the Damon and Blunt characters need to be kept apart in order for both to achieve their full potential. (He is a politician; she's a dancer). Most of the picture is given over to the efforts of the Damon character to thwart their plans. It climaxes in a stupid chase that has the cast teleporting through doorways all across Manhattan. (However grudgingly, credit must be given where it’s due: Nolfi’s use of the New York locations in this sequence and others is superb.) There’s a terrific romantic movie struggling to break free from the pretentious pulpiness, but it never sees its way clear. The outstanding cinematography is by John Toll.

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