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This Bureau Needs Adjusting! A Review

I didn’t seek out the Adjustment Bureau, even though it was a movie based on a story by Philip K. Dick, and his stories almost always have something valuable in them. No, I didn’t seek it out, but it was the compromise choice for a movie on Netflix, and so I watched it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine movie. I’d even go as far as saying it’s good. This is almost completely due to the cast and – one assumes – the director who got such fine performances out of them. The script was fine, but not particularly memorable. Much of the script that worked best would have worked in a romantic comedy as well. But this wasn’t a romantic comedy. It’s a fantasy movie – not science fiction as Wikipedia states. There’s no science in it. The antagonists are pretty much . . .

Spoilers? Is that necessary? Spoilers . . .

Angels. This is a movie about magic and how true love can conquer even the most powerful of magics. The Adjustment Bureau of the title has decided to adjust the pair’s romance since it has no place in “the plan,” but somehow they keep getting back together. Perhaps this is through sheer chance or will, but it shows that their love is greater than “the plan” and all the powers that support it. But that isn’t actually the story because – I’ve already warned you, but SPOILERS! – they were actually supposed to be together in a previous plan and only recently was that changed. So really, their love isn’t theirs, it’s from “the plan.” And while Damon’s character argues for free will, his love actually isn’t a product of his free will, but rather a leftover of “the plan.”

This isn’t remarked on in the movie, nor is the fact that if the plan changes, then the planner – known as “the Chairman” – isn’t infallible. To me, this seemed like a kind of a big deal when the Bureau does not question “the plan” because it is supposed to be perfect. One of the agents is shocked to learn that “the plan” changed in the past, but doesn’t seem to follow that on to its logical conclusion – if the plan regularly changes (there’s another change in “the plan” during the movie) they are following whims, rather than a plan.

Nothing is really well-explained and problems are papered-over maybe with hopes that no one will notice. The movie works because of its cast – not just Damon and Blunt but also Anthony Mackie as the agent who becomes their ally and Terence Stamp as the toughest of the tough. It’s a fun watch, but for a movie that seems to think it’s quite smart, that’s a façade. It veers very far away from Philip K. Dick’s original story, and that loses both the science fiction of the premise and the intelligence of the same.

I give the Adjustment Bureau 3.75 magic hats out of 5. The performances are great and the cast is charismatic, but the story doesn’t really hold together. Sure, there’s inspiration with some of the ideas here, but it’s definitely not science fiction and really only fantasy as a strawman – a powerful adversary that isn’t really powerful at all in order to show the strength of true love, which isn’t actually true love.

You can find out more about the Adjustment Bureau at Wikipedia and IMDB.