Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review: The Adjustment Bureau


The Adjustment Bureau got some instant points in my book, before it even came out, because it's based on a short story by Phillip K. Dick. Phillip's work, for those of you who don't know, has been adapted in the past into a bunch of movies, a lot of which are really good. Total Recall. Minority Report. A Scanner Darkly. Motherfucking Blade Runner. So expectations were high going in.

Matt Damon has the lead as David Norris, a promising but impulsive young member of the House of Representatives who's Senate campaign is damaged beyond repair when some shennangians from his younger days are revealed. While preparing for his concession speech, he meets a woman who inspires him to give a different, more honest, speech. While trying to meet her again, he is confronted by a group of Adjusters, men who alter the world in subtle ways to keep people on their plan for humanity.

This is one of those rare movies that is held back not by some flaws but by it's own potential. That isn't to say it's not a good movie (and it is, oh so good) but that it's never as good as it could be. But with that said, it's always better than it strictly NEEDS to be.

The cinematography is nice and subtle, always feeling like it's enhancing the story. The editing is well done. Thomas Newell's soundtrack is fantastically written and intergrated into the movie. What little CGI and special effects are so well done and subtle that if you don't know what to look for, you won't notice them (which is the mark of a good special effects team, especially in the greenscreen department).

The actors all turn in fine performances, Matt Damon does a nice understated job with lots of subtle nuances, Emily Blunt bouncing off him in a more energetic performance. The script takes pains to avoid cliché, especially in the area of the Adjusters. It would be easy, and make sense in context of the story, to make them faceless enemies but the story never goes that way. In fact, one of the reasons I like it is that all of the introduced Adjusters have full personalities and character arcs, with various reasons established for the motives of each of them (with one treating it like a job).

The story is, both thankfully and disappointingly, not as complex as you think it might be from the trailers. Of course that could be because it looks so much like Inception which is, for better or for worse, the movie it has it's eyes fixed on the entire time, at least stylistically. It's not as good as Inception (so few things are) but when you look at it objectively, the only way it even tries to imitate Inception is in style (and even that is more or less limited to camera work). Other than that, it's a completely different, and fairly unique, film.

Look, all reviews have to boil down to one question: Should you see it? Well hell yes you should. With the possible exception of Rango this is the best thing in theaters right now. In terms of Phillip K. Dick based work (on a scale of Total Recall to Blade Runner) it's something akin to Minority Report. It's nothing earth shakingly good, but it's a well crafted and engaging thriller, and worthy of your time and attention.

Oh and before I go, if you haven't seen A Scanner Darkly go fix that, now. It's one WEIRD ass film, but it's easily one of the most unique and visionary animated films I've ever seen, even if a lot of it is really confusing. So yeah. Go see both.

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he is determined to have this film retitled The Fedora Brigade.

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