Matt Damon and Emily Blunt star in a film that was released under the genre of romantic thriller, but The Adjustment Bureau would be better categorised under a science fiction tag.
An ambitious politician, David Norris (Matt Damon), is close to winning a seat on the US Senate meets a beautiful ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt). He quickly realises that he is falling for her, but mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. The adjustment bureau’s caseworkers’ are agents of fate and will go to any lengths to stop the relationship. David faces a tough decision, whether to let her go and accept a predetermined path, or risk everything and defy fate to be with her.
At the centre of this film’s narrative is a love story between David and Elise. The relationship begins with a seemingly random meeting in the men’s bathroom where they share the briefest of conversations before a passionate kiss. Elise’s carefree and wacky attitude influences David to change his political image, which leads to him providing the perfect concession speech. This short sequence cleverly presents the feelings the two have for each other, but also raises questions about the nature of the meeting.
It is commonplace for romance films to include the often clichéd, ‘only-in-film’ scenarios where the two characters meet. In this film however, it is later revealed that all happenings are the result of the adjustment bureau. The romance between David and Elise quickly becomes secondary as the film’s true focus falls on the bureau.
With a vast array of technology and the caseworkers’ glaring likeness to the time-controlling law preventers of Minority Report the science fiction elements are immediately apparent. Dressed smartly in suits and trilby hats the bureau’s caseworkers are a powerful, hierarchal order capable of controlling people’s lives. They adjust the paths people take throughout their lives in order for them to conform to ‘the plan’.
This thought provoking science fiction narrative is cleverly written, but what is really striking is the religious symbolism of the bureau itself. At the head of the bureau is an unseen character known only as The Chairman and it is understandable that audiences would recognise a representation of Christianity’s belief of an all-seeing, all-powerful and all-good God, with the caseworkers as the angels. However, the bureau may show the omnipotent and omnipresent characteristics, they do not represent the omnibenevolence, but instead are shown as darkly mysterious figures who install false beliefs of free will on to society.
There is an abundance of complex technology in this film, exemplified by books that show an electronic display instead of words and the caseworkers’ ability to use any door as a teleport in order to reach any location in the city. Such high levels of technology are largely present in the science fiction genre and the fact that they remain unexplained aids the narrative.
Although it may suffer from a cheesy ending, The Adjustment Bureau provides a touching love story that lies beneath unexpected levels of science fiction. The first-time director, George Nolfi, does very well to keep the complicated narrative well paced and easy to follow.