Friday, August 5, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

George Nolfi, 2011 (8.0*)

This is another thoughtful and eccentric science fiction excursion from the sometimes brilliant, sometimes dark mind of author Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner, Minority Report), this based on his story “The Adjustment Team”. Director George Nolfi is a screenwriter turned director, who co-wrote the films Bourne Ultimatum (conclusion of Bourne Trilogy (2007)), The Sentinel, and Ocean’s Twelve.

This story deals with fate vs. human endeavor and choice. Matt Damon plays a man whose seemingly unimportant everyday routine is being manipulated by a clandestine team of men, who appear to be some type of secret agents who answer to an unknown master. They watch a futuristic time line of his life in a special book, and if it starts to deviate then they intervene.

This puts into reality the metaphor of fate, which is generally considered a pre-determined sequence of life events over which we have no control, in this case actual people employed to ensure that fate. Damon’s character has a chance meeting with dancer Emily Blunt, and the two have a mutual attraction, which is counter to the plan the agents are using as a guide, and is a potential romance that would cause great deviations from the plan.

The master of this plan is only referred to as The Chairman, and perhaps the story’s major failing is to give no real explanation of the importance of all this. Obvious comparisons will be made to Inception, since each is about altering reality, but this action occurs in the waking state of corporal reality and is not in any fantasy or imaginitive realm.

A common theme of Dick’s novels are reality vs. fantasy, with characters often struggling to distinguish the difference in the two – characters who are usually unbalanced either through insanity or mind-altering drugs. In this story, neither is the case, as a common man is attempting to overcome real people who are controlling his life events, but for an unknown reason.

There is nothing special about the acting here, in spite of a good cast, which features John Slattery of Mad Men who works for the adjustment team. The story could have packed more punch, but is a pleasant excursion for a science fiction film, one that doesn’t have wild west style shootouts. or space wars, or lovably fuzzy aliens, or human-devouring monsters. In that regard, it belongs in a sub-genre with Inception, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gattica, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it’s just not at the same artistic level as these others.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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