The Adjustment Bureau This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

March 15, 2011
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Does fate exist? Does a ­singular “man upstairs” control everything? Philip K. Dick tackled this timeless ­question in the short story “The Adjustment Team,” which was transformed into an elaborate and thrilling film by George Nolfi. It seems like it's a trend nowadays to take 20-page short stories and make them into much longer films, such as “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” What this movie manages to portray is the difficult balance between incredible thrill and passionate romance, a feat which is rarely pumped with such pathological understanding and connection, both between the stars and for the audience.

Matt Damon plays politician David Norris, who is trying to leave his playboy image behind for a Senate race. Everything seems to be going his way until a scandalous image hits the New York Post and he loses the election.
That night, he meets a woman in a restroom. Yes, this does seem odd, but it's been done before. Emily Blunt plays Elise, an up-and-coming ballet dancer who disrupts David's world and sends him on a harrowing journey of discovery and true love. The two share an impromptu kiss, and the chemistry is instantaneous.

When David meets Elise again, the Adjustment Bureau, a team of white-collar guys in fedoras, spring into action to keep them apart. It was them who made David lose the Senate race. It was them who made him spill his coffee on Elise. It's all part of “the plan.” The entire idea of predestination versus free will not only raises questions but challenges the viewer in the decisions he or she makes in real life.

Separated from Elise by these mysterious men (led perfectly by the dapper John Slattery of “Mad Men”), David can't stop thinking about her. Even three years later, he finds her “by chance” and is determined to be with her. But the Team is forced to tear them apart once again, for the plan was written by the Chairman, a nameless, faceless entity that is not-so-subtly a reference to the Judeo-Christian God. David is helped by one member of the Team named Harry, played with great sympathy by ­Anthony Mackie.

Despite this existential plotline, the technical aspects of the film are underwhelming. The cinematography is okay. While the Team is in control, the camera makes smooth sweeps across the screen, obviously a purposeful creative movement, which contrasts with the shaky hand-held feel of David's kinetic world of fighting against Destiny.

Perhaps one of the best aspects of the movie, besides the acting, is how quickly the story is set in motion. It's perfectly paced as both a romance and a thriller. David can't get Elise out of his mind and is determined to find her. We, the audience, feel that excitement. We feel that yearning. And when David is racing against the clock and Fate and all that seems logical in the universe, the energy in those scenes is ­relentless and masterfully ­executed.

The existential elements of the film are important, as the Team consistently refers to the Chairman, the Plan, Free Will, and Destiny. These references could not be more overt unless they had God appear in a beard and a suit, but it doesn't detract from the story. The theme of true love and fighting for that love seems just as high on the director's mind as the allegorical message. I believe this is the first time I actually rooted for the two leads. It was as if they were meant to be together.

“The Adjustment Bureau” is not a perfect film. It could have been riskier. But the passion of the characters melted my heart. The romance is decadent and feels real. The passion and chemistry between Blunt and Damon is one of the most real on the screen, almost an homage to Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart in “Casa­blanca.” Every ounce of acting these two put in makes you fall in love with them.

It is by no means perfect, but it is a perfect date movie. It challenges viewers' interpretation of fate and free will. It's not a triumph in movie making, but it is a triumph in storytelling and acting and a love on the silver screen. The way it was meant to be.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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