Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau

I will be leaving the state for a few days on a photo sojourn, so the next two days of journal entries have been written and will publish automatically at 8 am on Thursday and Friday. I will not be sending out email copies of those entries until at least Sunday night, but more likely Monday morning. If you are an email subscriber and can’t wait, I suggest you go to the website on those days shortly after 8 am.

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This trip would have been a prime opportunity to play with Foursquare, but I don’t think I have time to set up an account and figure that stuff out.

Regardless, I won’t be responding to many emails, texts or phone calls in the next 4 days.

MovieThe Adjustment Bureau

Director: George Nolfi (Directorial Debut)
Writer: Geoge Nolfi (The Bourne Ultimatum, Ocean’s Twelve, The Sentinel)
Staring: Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, The Departed, The Bourne Ultimatum) and Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, The Young Victoria, Sunshine Cleaning)

Theater – Cinemark Movies 12 – Ames, Iowa

Companion – Nader

Food – Mongolian Buffet

Intellectual Honesty

I am a big fan of Matt Damon. I have been ever since Good Will Hunting. I also favor Emily Blunt. I’ve liked her ever since The Devil Wears Prada.


I was intrigued by this movie, but the fact that Hollywood dumps most of its disappointing movies in the early part of the year was a concern. Also, it looked like it might have been a ripoff of Inception. Source Code also looks like a ripoff of Inception.

Synopsis from IMDB

Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us? Matt Damon stars in the thriller The Adjustment Bureau as a man who glimpses the future Fate has planned for him and realizes he wants something else. To get it, he must pursue the only woman he’s ever loved across, under and through the streets of modern-day New York. On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, ambitious politician David Norris (Damon) meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt)-a woman like none he’s ever known. But just as he realizes he’s falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself-the men of The Adjustment Bureau-who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. In the face of overwhelming odds, he must either let her go and accept a predetermined path…


I loved the beginning of this movie. I legitimately like Matt Damon and Emily Blunt enough that I would have been quite content for a straight romance movie. The conflict of running a high profile campaign for the Senate and dating somebody like Blunt’s Elise would have been more than enough conflict to make an interesting movie.

David and Elise meet in a bathroom while David is practicing his concession speech after losing his bid for the U.S. Senate because a picture of him participating in a prank at a college reunion shows up on the front pages of the NYC newspapers. His brief interaction with Elise causes him to not give the speech that was written for him.

The speech he gives is the 2nd best scene in the movie and it is the speech that I badly wish that some politician (any politician) would give in the United States.

He starts out giving the speech with a story about a rule from his own neighborhood. It wasn’t whether or not you got knocked down, but it was what you did when you got back up that mattered.

After he delivers the line he stops. Then he tells a story about a magazine article about him revealed that the number one thing that drew other people to him was that he was “authentic”. However, he didn’t feel authentic.

He then tells the truth. That wasn’t a rule in his old neighborhood. It was a line that tested well to focus groups. He didn’t pick out his tie. A consulting firm that his campaign had paid decided that he should wear red and blue ties. Then he takes off his shoe and holds it up. His campaign paid a consulting firm 7300 dollars to decide what was the correct amount of scuffing to have on his shoes. Too little scuffing makes him look like a lawyer or an investment banker and that would limit his appeal to the working class. Too much scuff on his shoes would damage his appeal to lawyers and investment bankers.

I loved this scene because it is sadly true. I was almost as excited to vote for David Norris after his speech as I was for Barack Obama, and he isn’t even real!

It was one of the best movie political speeches I’ve ever seen. It ranks right up there with the speeches from The Candidate.

The speech reminded me of Ronald Reagan a little bit. Love or hate Ronald Reagan, if you want, but I respect Ronald Reagan. The real Ronald Reagan, not the one that the Republican party has tried to make him into. The Ronald Reagan that raised taxes 11 times, granted amnesty for illegal immigrants, and signed an arms reduction treaty with the Soviet Union.

I don’t know how true this story is, but I once heard this story about Ronald Reagan and it is a large part of the reason why I respect the real Ronald Reagan.

He was having a meeting on an issue and one of his advisers brought up polling data and how certain decisions would effect his approval ratings. He told his adviser to stop. He didn’t want to know how his decision would effect his popularity. He wanted to know what decision he could make that was best for the country.

But I digress…

It is a month after this speech when David runs into Elise on a bus that the Adjustment Bureau steps into their life and tries to stop their romance from blossoming. David is told that he is never to see Elise again and that if he tells anybody about the existence of the Adjustment Bureau they will erase his brain.

It is what the Adjustment Bureau is that is probably the weakest part of the movie. The script seems to want to be very bland about who these people are and they definitely aren’t affiliated with any religion. They exist and they work for The Chairman who writes “the plan”.

This raises a large amount of issues of predestination versus free will. I come down fairly strong on the side of free will. So much so that, if I didn’t believe in free will I would view life as a completely fruitless exercise in futility. However, the movie tries to play it both ways.

Apparently these “case workers” intervened in human history from our “hunters and gatherers” stage on through the Roman Empire. Then, humans were allowed to make their own choices, but we screwed it up and that lead to the Dark Ages. This caused them to intervene again, but they stopped intervening in 1910. But had to start intervening again because we were going to blow ourselves up during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

However, humans can try to make their own decisions but if it messes with the Plan, then the Adjustment Bureau adjusts your decisions to get you back on the plan.

David doesn’t give up on his dream of Elise and years later “chance” throws them together for a third time. This leads to what I consider the best scene in the movie where David tells Elise the full story of why he got into politics. It is a story about how he was bottoming out after his mom and brother died a month apart when he was a teenager. The scene ends with what I personally consider some of the most magical words in the English language: “I’ve never told anybody that before.”

For the record, that is considerably different than “don’t tell anybody else this.”

The Adjustment Bureau tries again to break them up using tactics that do raise interesting moral questions.

“Would you stay with the person you loved if you knew it was going to be bad for you?”

I think that is a very easy question to answer, but the next question is much harder to answer:

“Would you stay with the person you loved if you knew it was going to be bad for them?”

Even though I think the movie ducked some questions and its history of the world interpretation is very spotty at best, I did enjoy this movie. In fact, when I initially left the theater I left thinking it was just kind of average. But the more I think about it, the more I like the movie. Yes I found the ending a little frustrating and the mechanics of the Adjustment Bureau a little lame, but everything else more than countered my qualms.

3.5/5.0 Caramels

Buy on DVD
Yes I will.

2011 Ranking
Currently number one. Although admittedly the competition hasn’t been too stiff.

Bonus Information

There was a preview for the movie The Conspirator that looks really interesting.

Up Next
Most likely Cedar Rapids. For real this time.

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