The Adjustment Bureau

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 2006, Congressman David Norris runs a promising but unsuccessful campaign for United States Senate. While rehearsing his concession speech in a hotel bathroom, Norris meets a woman hiding in a stall. The two share a pleasant conversation, ultimately leading to a kiss. Inspired, Norris delivers a candid speech that is well-received, making him a favorite for the 2010 Senate race.

Some months later, Norris is preparing to start his first day at a new job. At a park near Norris’s house, Harry Mitchell receives an assignment from Richardson, his boss: ensure Norris spills his coffee by 7:05 AM; shortly thereafter Mitchell falls asleep while waiting and misses Norris, who boards his bus. He encounters Elise, the woman from the bathroom, who writes down her phone number on a card and gives it to Norris. When Norris arrives at work, he finds his boss and campaign manager, Charlie Traynor, in suspended animation and is being examined by unfamiliar men in suits. David attempts to escape and the men give chase. Norris is incapacitated and taken to a warehouse to meet Richardson and his men.

Richardson explains he and his men are from the Adjustment Bureau. The job of the Bureau’s “caseworkers” is to ensure people’s lives proceed as determined by “the plan”, a complex document Richardson attributes to “the Chairman”.[7][8] Charlie is fine and will not remember his adjustment, and Norris is warned that if he talks about the Bureau he will be “reset”—akin to being lobotomized. Richardson informs David that he is not meant to meet Elise again. He burns the card containing her phone number and tells David to forget her.

For the next three years David rides the same bus downtown, hoping to see Elise. He finally encounters her and they reconnect. The Bureau tries to stop him from building his relationship with her by causing their schedules to separate them again. David races across town, fighting the Bureau’s abilities to “control his choices” to ensure he will meet Elise. During the chase the Bureau uses ordinary doorways to travel instantly to locations many blocks away.

Richardson discovers that David and Elise “were meant to be together in an earlier version of the plan”, and Harry speculates on whether or not the plan is always correct. David and Elise spend an evening at a party, connecting when David tells her he became a politician after the loss of his mother and brother. They spend the night together, cementing their bond the next morning.

The Bureau has Thompson take authority regarding David’s adjustment. He takes Norris to a warehouse, where David argues he has the right to choose his own path. Thompson says that they gave humanity free will after the height of the Roman Empire, but humanity then brought the Dark Ages down upon itself. The Bureau took control again and created the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. When free will was returned around 1910 it resulted in two world wars and the near destruction of the planet with a nuclear conflict. Thompson releases him, and he runs to Elise’s performance at her dance studio. Thompson follows, and tells him that if he stays with Elise, he will ruin his political future as President of the United States and also ruin Elise’s future as a world-famous dancer and choreographer; with David, Elise will be limited to teaching dance to children. To make a point, he uses his adjustment power to cause Elise to sprain her ankle. With his future in jeopardy and faced with sabotaging Elise’s future as well, David abandons her at the hospital.

Eleven months later, David runs for election again and sees an announcement of Elise’s imminent wedding. Harry, feeling guilty for earlier events, contacts David via secret meetings in the rain and near water. David learns from Harry that the Bureau’s weakness is water, allowing them to meet without the Bureau finding out. Harry reveals that Thompson exaggerated the negative consequences of David and Elise’s relationship, and he teaches David to use the doors so he may stop Elise’s wedding. He gives David his hat, empowering Norris to use the doors. David finds Elise in the bathroom of the courthouse where she is to be wed. Furious and hurt after his earlier desertion, Elise is shocked when David reveals the Bureau’s existence to her and shows her how he travels through doors. They are pursued across New York City. When David and Elise find themselves at the base of the Statue of Liberty, Norris decides to find the Chairman. Elise wavers briefly but then follows David across.

They go through the door to the Bureau headquarters. Eventually, they are trapped on a rooftop above New York, with Bureau members closing in. They declare their love for each other and embrace in a passionate kiss before David can be reset. When they let go of each other, the Bureau members are all gone. Thompson is abruptly on scene but is interrupted by Harry, who shows him a new, revised plan from the Chairman for David and Elise. After commending both of them for showing such devotion to each other, Harry takes his hat back and tells David and Elise they are free to “take the stairs”. The film concludes with David and Elise walking through the streets accompanied by a voice-over from Harry, speculating that the Chairman’s larger plan may be to get humanity back to a point where they can write their own plans


If ever there was a case for a film not being what you expect, then The Adjustment Bureau is it. Judging from the trailers, one would expect this to be something akin to typical spy faire of today, only that isn’t the case. In actuality, there is a sci-fi thriller element going on here that really puts an interesting twist on things and captivates the audience, but is that enough to make this a good film?

The film starts with the meteoric rise of a promising young politician, played by Matt Damon. It seems as if he has the election locked up, then we all of a sudden see this guy who has this look about him, like he’s pissed about something. I assumed he was just someone who was wronged in the past, but I was wrong. Anyway, he gets a call and the next thing we know stuff starts spiraling out of control and he loses the election.

While he is in the bathroom practicing his concession speech, he meets a young woman, played by Emily Blunt, who gives him some advice all politicians should follow, which results in the funniest, truthful, and eye-opening lines of the film.

This chance meeting actually was not supposed to happen, let alone the two meeting again on the bs sometime later. It is because of this that the Adjustment Bureau reveal themselves and what they do, which make sure everything and everyone’s life goes according to “the plan”. If this wasn’t enough, they take the young woman’s number, burn it, and basically forbid them from seeing each other. Needless to say, that doesn’t work, but the rest of the film is spent in this chess match, of sorts, between the two factions. A battle of sorts between the Bureau and the free will of mankind.

I love this story. It really makes you wonder if there are mysterious guys out there controlling and adjusting everything about our lives. It would certainly explain how some people suddenly have changes of heart or don’t show up for a meeting, etc.

Speaking of the Adjustment Bureau guys, they sort of reminded me of the watcher guys from Fringe, especially with the old man hats they all wore. I would say that this may have been done on purpose, but this isn’t an original idea, but is based on a short story, which I haven’t read…yet.

They have this labeled as a romantic action thriller. Two things about that. First, I didn’t even know that was a category and second, I’m not so sure you can say that the romance is enough to categorize it anymore than you can with almost any other action flick. Yes, it is there, but does it really warrant being part of the subgenre?

One thing I liked about this film is how they let Emily Blunt’s character have her individuality and spunk, but she was still the proverbial damsel in distress. Not to sound misogynistic, but it seems like in every film nowadays the female lead is so busy trying to up the guy that it has become as tiresome as some say the damsel in distress was at one time. Could this be the start of us coming around full circle? I sure hope so!

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt master their roles, but it is the chemistry between the two that really stands out in my mind. Too often nowadays do we get on-screen couples that might as well be a couple of over paid wet blankets up there. Damon and Blunt seems as if they really were falling for each other, and it is that sort of believability that can make or break a film like this.

John Slattery, of Mad Men fame, proves that he can step out of his comfort zone of the suit and tie world…wait, he was still in a suit and tie, ok…um, where was I going with this. Ah! He adds his name to the list of actors from that show who have shown they are true talents, a list that does not include the overrated January Jones, but that’s a topic for some other time.

Terence Stamp is…well, he’s Terence Stamp.  As per his usual, he’s creepy and evil, yet dignified, respected, and distinguished. We’ve come to expect this and nothing less from him.

Newcomer Anthony Mackie makes quite the impression in this fairly major role as the member of the Bureau he seems to have a soft spot either for mankind, or Damon, for most of the film we’re not sure, but it is revealed at a later point of the film why he is like he is.

The chairman is never seen, but they make him out to be some sort of omnipotent being. I read some message boards on this film, you know the kind where people over-analyze every little aspect of movies, and they speculated that the chairman is God and the bureau are angels. Another posters said the same thing, bt on the other side of the spectrum, saying that he was the devil, and they were demons. One guy even went so far as to go into the whole turning the knob left and all that mumbo jumbo. It was enough to give me a headache and remind me why I don’t go into such lunatic rantings over a film.

Still, it would have been nice to have seen the chairman, bt on the other hand, his presence there was like a mysterious powerful cloud hanging over everything. I can go either way on that topic. A few people have joked that Ben Affleck should have been the chairman.

Not really being a fan of Matt Damon films, it was really a long shot that I was going to like this one, but the sci-fi element, coupled with Emily Blunt made this worth watching. To be honest, it is the titular characters that really make this film one to see.  I was enthralled in this film almost from the minute it started and think you will be as well. Give it a shot, you may be pleasantly surprised!

4 out of 5 stars

One Response to “The Adjustment Bureau”

  1. Mystery Man Says:

    Reblogged this on Mr Movie Fiend's Movie Blog.

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