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The Adjustment Bureau

Reviewed by Galen Strickland

By my count, this is the fourteenth time a Philip K. Dick story or novel has been adapted to film (with more to come), but it should be pointed out that in most cases the resultant movie has little or nothing in common with the original text. One thing that Dick is noted for is populating his stories with normal people, just everyday joes confronted with remarkable circumstances. But Hollywood knows that movie-goers don't want characters based on common folk, thus the lowly real estate agent of "Adjustment Team" becomes a Congressman and would-be Senator, a mover and shaker, one destined to change the world.

This is the first film directed by George Nolfi. He also wrote the screenplay (at least he is the only one credited), but it seems to me there were probably quite a few other hands stirring that pot...I mean, plot. Taken on surface value it is entertaining enough, with competent acting, direction, sets and action scenes. Matt Damon is far from my favorite actor, but he at least embues this character with a bit of an Everyman vibe in spite of his lofty position. Both the writing and acting in an early scene when he makes a concession speech was the highlight of the film for me, at least for his part in it. Truth be told, the highlight was Emily Blunt, who is gorgeous, a competent dancer, and whose reactions to Damon are believable even when you think the character is not behaving the way you expect.

The supporting cast is also good, most especially Slattery and the woefully underused Stamp. The plot contrivances are easy to follow, although it does get a bit heavy-handed with the fate versus free will argument at times, and the fact that it basically boils down to "all you need is love." The main problem with the film is its predictability, perhaps the thing most unlike a Dick story. I doubt there is anyone who won't anticipate the ending after the first thirty minutes.

As much as this is an adaptation of the PKD short story, it could just as easily been derived from Heinlein's "They," and some will probably liken it to at least two separate Twilight Zone episodes. There's also a story by Frederic Brown (or was it Robert Sheckley?) that I thought of, although I can't recall the title. This is the first film I've reviewed that is not a complete positive recommendation. Most will enjoy it, but will probably be content to wait for the video release. Save your theater money for something else.

 

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Writer/Director
George Nolfi

"Suggested" by a Philip K. Dick short story

Released
March 4, 2011

Cast
Matt Damon
Emily Blunt
John Slattery
Anthony Mackie
Michael Kelly
Terence Stamp

Full Credits at IMDb

DVD and Blu-Ray available from amazon.com.