I’m always intrigued, but a bit worried, when I hear that another Philip K. Dick story is being turned into a movie. Many adaptations of Mr. Dick’s work have been pretty horrid, and even the ones that are great (such as Total Recall and Blade Runner) tend to diverge pretty far from the source material. But the promise of one of Mr. Dick’s short stories being used as the basis for the script, along with an intriguingly talented cast, piqued my interest in the new film, The Adjustment Bureau.
Matt Damon plays David Norris, a young, hot-shot rising-star politician who, nevertheless, has just lost the race for the New York Senate seat. In the moments before he’s to give his concession speech, he meets a beautiful young dancer named Elise (Emily Blunt) in the bathroom. She’s hiding out from security in the men’s room because she just crashed a wedding in the same building. Sparks immediately fly between the two, and she inspires David to give a surprising off-the-cuff speech that almost immediately begins to revive his political career. When the two meet again soon thereafter, bumping into one another on a city bus, it’s clear that they have a powerful connection. But almost immediately David finds himself confronting a mysterious group of men who seem determined to keep the two apart. These men are the Adjustment Bureau. They claim to be the instruments of a higher power, helping to keep people on their proper paths. They warn David that he and Elise are not fated to be together, and that if he does not let her go, the consequences will be disastrous for them both.
For a film based on a story by Philip K. Dick (his 1954 tale Adjustment Team), the film is actually surprisingly light on the science fiction. It’s really more of a fantasy about belief and faith and fate than it is a sci-fi adventure. That’s not in any way a criticism. The film incorporates the fantastic with a fairly light touch, keeping the focus squarely on David’s real-world emotions and his struggle to find a way out of the impossible situation in which he finds himself.
The glimpses we were given into how the Adjustment Bureau functions were fun — just tantalizing enough to leave us intrigued but not bogged down by exposition. I loved the look of their books (which map individuals’ destinies), and I thought that their system of traveling incredible distances in the blink of an eye through doors that they could turn into portals across the globe was cool (even if the thunder of this device was stolen slightly by Monsters, Inc. — still, Mr. Dick’s story came … [continued]