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Matt Damon
Emily Blunt
Anthony Mackie
John Slattery
Terence Stamp
Michael Kelly.
George Nolfi.
George Nolfi.
Running Time
106 minutes

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The Adjustment Bureau
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotted Dick

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Politician David Norris (Matt Damon) meets dancer Elise (Emily Blunt) on election night, forming an instant bond that inspires him to make the speech of his life. Months later, he encounters her again, but mysterious men in hats seem determined to keep them apart.

The Adjustment Bureau
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Once again, a film based on a Philip K. Dick idea bears at most a passing resemblance to its inspiration — but this time it’s because, instead of piling illogic on high concept, Hollywood has transformed his short story into a swoonsome romance. Strangely, that seems to be a better fit. Maybe Dick had a softer centre than we ever knew.

The themes of screenwriter George Nolfi’s first feature film as director will delight philosophers. Does free will exist, or are we travelling along pre-determined paths — and if so, who determines them, and to what extent? Where does chance end and design begin? Can we fight Fate? Luckily for us, Nolfi’s execution will excite everyone else, for this metaphysical love story/thriller manages the very difficult trick of remaining intriguingly intelligent while unfailingly placing entertainment well ahead of explanation.

In other words, the script merrily skips any laboured exposition on exactly who — or what — the ubiquitous shady men in the sharp suits and anachronistic hats are. It positively sprints past any lengthy monologues establishing why they do what they do — and, for that matter, barely lingers on the “what” they’re doing. There’s a suggestion that the Adjusters may be angels, which would certainly explain their Wings Of Desire-esque propensity for standing on rooftops wearing overcoats, and there’s mention of a Chairman with a Plan, but it’s never particularly dissected. All the better, since it’s in establishing the detail that brain-bending thrillers like this tend to fall apart.

Instead, we experience The Adjustment Bureau as does the film’s protagonist David Norris (Matt Damon): as a strange and all-powerful force twisting events to its own ends. That’s not to say that the members of the Bureau are devoid of personality: John Slattery’s Richardson is sardonic and, on some level, grudgingly respectful of Norris; Anthony Mackie’s Harry is openly compassionate; Terence Stamp’s Thompson all business.

This cabal of millinery enthusiasts first attempts to manipulate Norris, and then downright orders him to break off contact with dancer Elise (Emily Blunt). But when pure chance gives him another shot, he very sensibly refuses to give her up. Watching the sparks fly between the charismatic pair, you can hardly blame him; this is one of those pairings where the oft-mentioned but seldom earned Tracy and Hepburn comparisons are merited. Damon plays smart, ambitious, but a little feckless; Blunt is amused, independent and more driven than the usual manic pixie dream girl stereotype that Elise might have become in lesser hands. The dialogue between them fairly crackles, allowing us to overlook the only-in-Hollywood serendipity of their meetings and instant connection.

It’s their intense link that keeps the pace fast and frantic as the difficulties pile on, the film gradually accelerating into a mad dash for the finish line that uses a few simple but remarkably effective special effects to keep you whizzing along with it. Nolfi saves his budget for where it matters; perhaps learning from his writing work on Bourne that knowing where to cut can be just as effective as blowing everything in sight sky-high. Even more miraculously, despite the fact that that’s Matt Damon powering down the street, this never feels like a Bourne wannabe in its action scenes. It’s a testament to how expertly the film builds to its conclusion that only days later do you realise this finale is basically that hoariest of rom-com clichés, the run for love. Maybe that’s because, with all the forces of the universe arrayed against them, you feel that these two actually deserve to make it.

It’s Inception for romantics, a love story told through the medium of science-fiction — or maybe not; it’s hard to peg this by genre. By keeping the pace quick, the explanation light and the characters strong, Nolfi achieves the near-impossible: a film puzzle you won’t mind leaving unexplained.

Reviewed by Helen O'Hara

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Adjustment Bureau, The

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Adjustment Bureau
Empire Star Rating

Has its flaws but it's still a winner from me.

Great film! Yes, it does has flaws, but it's entertainment and love between Damon and Blunt overpower that. Could watch it over and over again. Read my review on ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TroyPutland at 10:31, 17 December 2014 | Report This Post

The Adjustment Bureau Review

First-time writer/director George Nolfi struggles to maintain a consistent tone, but The Adjustment Bureau rises on the strong, believable chemistry of its stars. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 21:42, 06 March 2012 | Report This Post

Loved it

What a nice film! I really enjoyed watching this. I see similarities with Brad Pitt's emotional Meet Joe Black, as the resonance sticks after the film has finished. Great cast, superbly shot and the editing is top draw. I don't know why people are still surprised by Damon. His versatility, consistancy and reliability are almost commonplace now. Top draw, and definately one to watch with the missus. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by danielthompson99 at 22:00, 20 January 2012 | Report This Post


Decent effort at an unusual story.2 good leads. Ending,without saying much.....mehhhhh.... ... More

Posted by thetruth at 22:40, 24 August 2011 | Report This Post


Really enjoyed the movie. Great premise and I'm a big Matt Damon fan. He makes it look easy. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by freedom7 at 22:18, 24 August 2011 | Report This Post


How do you make a 'boy-meets-girl' romantic encounter with all the ups and downs that go with that sort of chick-flick tale appeal to someone like me, someone that gags when they try and utter the words romantic comedy or date movie? Simple, add some science fiction. I was really impressed by this, and it exceeded my expectations by quite a bit thanks to the totally convincing chemistry between the two leads - that first encounter in the bathroom had me grinning, GRINNING, because it wa... More

Posted by Vitamin F at 10:51, 24 August 2011 | Report This Post



Empire User Rating

Posted by chrisdagnall at 14:35, 21 August 2011 | Report This Post

The Adjustment Bureau is a very good film. It was interesting and was enjoyable to watch. I like Matt Damon as an actor and he did a great performance in this film. I must say for George Nolfi to direct his first film he did a pretty good job. I would recommend to go see this film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Edward9630 at 02:37, 08 August 2011 | Report This Post

Having watched this whilst feeling rather fragile with a hangover, in retrospect I was maybe feeling a little emotionally fragile as well, and the will they won't they love story captivated me more than it would for my usual, more cynical self. Saying that, the lead performances of Matt Damon and Emily Blunt were stunning, the chemistry crackles from the very first meeting, and however unlikely the instant attraction may seem in real life, it is believable. Elise is specifically designed to be t... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by narmour at 09:21, 04 July 2011 | Report This Post

Having watched this whilst feeling rather fragile with a hangover, in retrospect I was maybe feeling a little emotionally fragile as well, and the will they won't they love story captivated me more than it would for my usual, more cynical self. Saying that, the lead performances of Matt Damon and Emily Blunt were stunning, the chemistry crackles from the very first meeting, and however unlikely the instant attraction may seem in real life, it is believable. Elise is specifically designed to be t... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by narmour at 09:21, 04 July 2011 | Report This Post

Slightly flawed but still notable

Director and writer George Nolfi does show that he doesn't know what he exactly wants his debut to feel like, but the strong and believable performances of Damon and Blunt make The Adjustment Bureau an admirable experience. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by djphilips at 10:36, 22 May 2011 | Report This Post

RE: adjustment B

]Alright my previous reviews were really bad and I have made stupid comments (damn drunkness everything seems like a good idea) this is my crap account i've got another one, but I can't be bothered to remember the password I've forgotten. Alright just because i'm a newbie doesn't mean my reviews aren't as good as any other person's, it just means i've spent less time here. So here it goes. Just had a weekend off, and thought what a great time to watch the movies, haven't seen one in ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by threshold at 05:56, 30 March 2011 | Report This Post

RE: adjustment B

Fate is a funny thing isn't it? Misplacing your keys, walking rather than taking the bus, a chance encounter with somebody and so on and so on can be a bit of a head scratcher sometimes. The idea that even the slightest of incidents (or "adjustments” if you will) can set your day, week; perhaps even your entire life off in a completely different direction to the one you have lived.   Take me for example. I once spectacularly flopped in a recruitment day for a call ce... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 07:57, 29 March 2011 | Report This Post

RE: adjustment B

The Adjustment Bureau, may not be the most engaging title for a movie about one man's battle against the forces of God to be with the one woman he loves, but if watched as a romance, it is a harmless and satisfactory night out at the cinema. Matt Damon is dependable as always but it is Emily Blunt who makes the film, coming across as a free spirited dancer without all that annoying quirkiness that other romantic leads have adopted in recent times. She really helps define the romance of the movi... More

Posted by thepluginbaby at 16:21, 27 March 2011 | Report This Post

RE: adjustment B

here is my take on it...   There are some nice ideas in The Adjustment Bureau, likes of which have been explored in such films as Truman Show and Brazil. Another dimension, an alternative reality and a group of 'beings' that you are never too sure why or what thier ultimate goals are. These are all factors explored in this movie. The film is definately not 'Bourne meets Inception' though as it has been quoted in numerous adverts and on posters. Far from it in fact! poor, misleading a... More

Posted by Roykfrapp at 01:07, 25 March 2011 | Report This Post

RE: adjustment B

It meandered along nicely with pleasant chemistry between the two leads. Emily Blunt was rather stunning and Matt Damon charismatic enough. The plot never really offers anything new and the ending is stunningly predictable although the moment when Matt Damon's character was trying to beat the fate layed at his feet with the use of the hat was the highlight. Overall a watchable and very average film. Expect to forget most of what happened by the time you leave the cinema though. ... More

Posted by sanchia at 00:36, 25 March 2011 | Report This Post

RE: adjustment B

Really enjoyed this, not at all as cheesy as I was expecting it to be even funny in parts. The idea was carried out very well and Damon and Blunt had great chemistry. The ending was a bit of a disappointment but not so much that it ruined the film ... More

Posted by musht at 23:30, 24 March 2011 | Report This Post

adjustment B

Excellent film. A great story with decent special effects that add to the experience rather than compensate for a terrible plot. Well worth watching... Enjoy.... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by HERMES_67 at 21:18, 18 March 2011 | Report This Post

Not great. Not great one bit.

Excellent review Dr Lenera - exactly how I felt about it. The logic in this movie is flawed - a lot of what happens is only accepted by the audience as Damon's character is so quick to accept it. Seriously, he accepts the situation so quickly that the next time he bumps into one of them he actually asks if they're angels! Seriously. The first question I'd ask if a bunch of guys from the 'Dark City re-enactment' group started harrassing me wouldn't be, 'are you an angel?' but, 'were those r... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by igotnewlegs at 14:05, 17 March 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Great

ustment Bureau n advertised with the quote, obviously from somebody who hasn't actually seen the film, "b]Inceptionhich sounds pretty good if you ask me.  The trailer makes it out to be pretty exciting, with lots of shots of Matt Damon running and sinister people chasing him, perhaps more bsp; ty. I think the filmmakers need to be prosecuted, because this movie is NOTHING like it has been advertised.  Now having read a few reviews prior to seeing thi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 21:11, 16 March 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Great

Caught this yesterday with the missus.   This might be a bit spoilery for those that haven't seen it yet.  Be warned.   Bit of an odd one for me.  I had read brief write ups and was intrigued by the snippets I'd seen in ads, plus the whole Philip K Dick background pulled me in.  I knew the whole 'Bourne meets Inception' marketing blurb was bullshit, but for some reason I was expecting a second half with a more sci-fi bent to it.  Obviously after the first ... More

Posted by porntrooper at 15:12, 14 March 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Great

All the talk of the Bourne meets Inception marketing prove one thing; that they have totally midjudged how to pitch this movie. I really liked The Adjustment Bureau - but it cannot be compared to either of the above, it's an unfair comparison as it really should be judged on its own merits. The story is pleasingly simple - boy meets girl and they fall in love but it has a neat fantastical twist in that they were never 'fated' to meet according to the Plan of The Chairman. What follow... More

Posted by Gazdance at 16:09, 10 March 2011 | Report This Post


Is it just me, or is Matt Damon just getting better and better? He is developing into a well-rounded actor, with a definite ability to draw in his audience and deliver some great performances. In this, Damon is a would-be Senator who meets a falls in love with Emily Blunt, a modern ballet dancer. Meanwhile it quickly becomes clear that the world is being organised by a group of shady men in 50's suits and hats, don't forget the hats, who 'Adjust' Peoples life paths to adhere to the grand plan... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by neopol at 14:10, 10 March 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Could have made a few adjustments

Bourne meets Inception?? No, you see that would actually be a right good film wouldn't it? Imagine Back to the Future meets The Matrix. Still sound good? Of course it does, except I'm talking about Back to the Future 2 meets Matrix Revolutions. Basically the point I'm labouring to make here is that this is a very poor film indeed. While Empire might think doing away with conventional details like ohhhh say plot, explanation or coherence is a radical and intriguing departure from the norm,... More

Posted by clearlinkssteve at 09:21, 10 March 2011 | Report This Post

Could have made a few adjustments

And no it’s not Bourne meets Inception it’s more like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Monsters Inc. Okay it’s not as good as either of those films but still give it a try and if this March you’re going to see a kick-ass sci-fi movie then it is not The Adjustment Bureau. The film isn’t anything like Inception with scene changing themselves and folding over each other and it is not Bourne with awesome action and great spy thriller fight scenes but like Et... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by oneangryman at 19:59, 09 March 2011 | Report This Post

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