Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

"I know that's what it looks like, but it's not. I can't explain to you why..."

In my review of Splice I said: "The trailers are telling you that Splice is just waiting to be the next Alien, a horror thriller that will keep you up at night with fear of what's crawling through your air ducts. The trailers are lying to you." It's not all that uncommon, trailers that pitch what they feel is the most widely appealing vision of a film instead of an honest representation. With Splice, it was obvious that they pitched the movie as a horror-thriller for fear that no one would come out to see the intense morality tale that the ended up being. But what about the movies where the trailer isn't meant to mislead. Where the story contained is really just that hard to explain? Enter The Adjustment Bureau.

Based (very loosely) on a short story by Philip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau makes up for what it lacks as an adaptation by taking Dick's basic idea and developing it into a full length feature film that tells one of the best romance stories I've watched in a long long time. As I sat in the theater I was reminded of one of my favorite romance films, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Not because the movies are alike or follow the same paths- but because they both use science fiction mechanics to propel an incredibly human and authentic look at how relationships rise and fall, and the way they affect the course of our lives.

At the center of the story are Matt Damon as David Norris, a politician running for state senate, and Emily Blunt as Elise Sellas, a talented ballet dancer; a chance meeting between the two that sets the story rolling. It's simple fact that any story of romance lives and dies by the heat of it's leads, and the onscreen chemistry between Damon and Blunt burns bright enough viewers might leave with the theater with a tan. Rooting for them comes naturally within moments of their first exchange, and that's all you need to be completely committed for the rest of the run time. The film also brings us another great performance from Anthony Mackie, a rising star I've been very vocal about wanting more from.

While the tone and the details of the journey your going to be taken may be hard to nail down in a trailer, once you understand the kind of story being told you will have no doubt how it ends. This is more a simple observation than a complaint. An endings predictability does not automatically disqualify it outright. The Adjustment Bureau's ending works as a conclusion, whether you'll be talking about it three weeks from now or not. if not, the movie will still leave you with more than enough to chew over with a fellow movie goer down the line.

It's very easy for me to add Adjustment Bureau to a list of recommendable films. As well as my list of "romance movies that are still romantic without being formulaic", and "movies that prove science fiction is more than aliens and spaceships". It may not be the taught "Big Brother" thriller the trailers would have believe it is, the film is almost better off for it. What a movie like this needs is word of mouth, though I'm sure a large part of that will be the inevitable (and in my opinion pointless) religious debates that will ensue. So see the movie, and then tell other people to see the movie. The Adjustment Bureau deserves an audience.

The Reel Deal Recommends:
Sunshine Cleaning: Blunt in a sub-plot that outshone the main.
The Good Shepherd: One of Damon's most complicated performances.
The Hurt Locker: Mackie boils in a film that won Best Picture for a reason.

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