Review: The Adjustment Bureau (2011 movie)

Senate candidate Matt Damon has a meet-cute with modern dancer Emily Blunt in a luxury hotel men’s room. He’s trying to work on his concession speech in private and she’s hiding out from hotel security, having been caught crashing a wedding reception. They soon hit it off and even start to kiss, but events quickly separate them before he can find out her last name.

When by accident he runs into her again, a team of guys looking like 1960s secret service agents intervene to try to keep them apart. These agents have powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men, but Damon has now seen Blunt’s dancer’s legs in a microskirt, so their job isn’t going to be easy. In fact, to keep things according to (divine?) plan, they wind up having to bring in ruthless Terrance Stamp, the villainous General Zod in Superman II, who by now is not just older but even more pissed off.

Since this is romantic sf, you’d think Blunt would be just as determined to be with Damon as he is to be with her, but she suffers from a bad case of artistic temperament and besides, she’s never seen his legs in a microskirt. Also, she routinely assumes the worst about him, which is entirely plausible, indeed doubly so, given that she’s a woman and he’s a politician.

Adjustment Bureau agents are able to teleport great distances by going through a network of portals that for everybody else are plain old doorways. At one point, team leader John Slattery is trying to get somewhere in a hurry and almost goes through the wrong portal in lower Manhattan. “I hate downtown!” he gripes, an amusing reference to the notoriously confusing layout of the oldest part of the city. This is a very New York film, featuring besides the in-jokes nice scenery and architecture as well as several local and national celebrities playing themselves.

While this isn’t a great film, it has some nice ideas, makes very good use of New York locations, and has some excellent special effects that don’t look like effects.

A bit of trivia: The bartender Damon talks to a few times (in the place with the drawing of a pig in the window) is played by lovely Jennifer Ehle, who starred as Elizabeth Bennett in the wildly popular 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (reviewed here). Ehle was born in Winston-Salem North Carolina near the end of 1969, the year I graduated high school. She and her mother, Rosemary Harris (Aunt May in the Spider-Man films), were both nominated for the Best Actress Tony in 2000; Ehle won.

Based very, very loosely on Philip K Dick’s 1954 story “The Adjustment Team.”

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