Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

“The Adjustment Bureau” is a highly vigorous  and complicated film. It takes an interesting concept meshing an unbalanced universe with a very adept character study and before you know it, you’re violating the laws of reality. In a nutshell, that’s how I embellish the picture. It contains dazzling twists, crafty dialogue and wordplay, unparalleled worlds that conflict with our own, highly ingenious characters, and a tremendous setting that could easily compare to a dystopia only found in literature. What makes “The Adjustment Bureau” widely-profound is its remarkably rich story. I never stumbled across a film so wildly original that after previewing it I became slightly disappointed I didn’t see it in theaters. As a major history and political science buff, “The Adjustment Bureau’s” biggest strength is fixating the setting in the present day, especially in regards to our government.

The story commences in 2006 when a Brooklyn congressman, David Norris, played by Matt Damon, is struggling to rehearse his concession speech. When all hope seems lost, Norris encounters an alluring woman named Elise Sellas, played by Emily Blunt, who inspires the young congressman to deliver an unusually impartial speech that successfully lands him in the senate race for 2010. After the warm reception of Norris’ speech, Norris crosses upon Elise a month later on his way to work. Norris credits her for pushing him to political ascension on the bus ride to his office. As the two develop a romantic connection, Norris’ world is instantly threatened when a squad of suited men examines his close friend, Charlie, who is encapsulated in time. They pursue Norris until he’s incapacitated and taken to an abandoned warehouse to be interrogated.

When Norris is awoken, a man named Richardson, played by John Slattery, explains that the men who abducted him earlier were part of a secret organization known as the Adjustment Bureau in which the party ensures the lives of the people proceed accordingly. The Bureau maintains a watchful eye over the population which is governed by an overpowering document known as “the plan” devised by a supreme overlord commonly referred to as “the chairman.” Norris is warned by Richardson that if the existence of the bureau is revealed to the outside world, he would be ultimately subjected to lobotomization. The Bureau concludes that Norris is not permitted to see the Elise in which Richardson briefly deduces that they were never meant to be together. Despite the idle threats, Norris does whatever it takes to see Elise regardless of the long-term consequences.

“The Adjustment Bureau” depicts a limited democratic society with the goal of laying out the groundwork and itinerary for figures and individuals instrumental to the United States government. The fascination I have concealed within derives from the brilliant exposition of the film.

This is a film only a select few can fully interpret and understand. In fact, “The Adjustment Bureau” must be seen at least two or three times to absolutely grasp its abstract concept.

When watching this film, I’ve noticed “The Adjustment Bureau” bears striking resemblance to George Orwell’s authoritarian novel, “1984.” The similarities are so visible that you could surely make the argument that “The Adjustment Bureau,” despite its namesake, is the democratic counterpart of “1984.” The love story involving David and Elise closely compares to the romance Winston and Julia shared in Orwell’s novel. The idea of a totalitarian state is clearly illustrated in “The Adjustment Bureau” regardless of its overt-democratic values and allegiance to the United States of America. Director George Nolfi cautiously blankets the conventions of liberty and free will that we identify with individually as Americans. The Chairman, played by no other than Terence Stamp, demonstrates that he can be less sinister and diabolical as the all-seeing Big Brother in Orwell’s novel.

Nonetheless, Stamp’s cold outlook on the future is quite eerie to say the least. He can be menacing and informative altogether, but ultimately the Chairman wants Norris to stick with “the plan” as followed without making sudden detours. While “1984” is primarily about maintaining order and stability for the sole purpose of the merciless figurative tyrant, “The Adjustment Bureau’s” primary intention is to attain order and stability under the leadership, government and administration of one person: David Norris. Unlike Oceania in 1984, the bureau wants to preserve their future empire as opposed to forcing a settlement to emerge like the Ministry of Truth did when they inflicted its people by means of psychological manipulation.

Beyond the clever writing and the advanced plot, the winning-performances of Damon, Blunt, Mackie, Slattery, and Stamp keep “The Adjustment Bureau” steady and afloat. Damon of course is the central focus of the film keeping the audience aware what his motives are and how he opts to meander around the Bureau. The high point of film is perhaps the screen time Damon and Blunt share. They masterfully develop natural chemistry with each other as Nolfi’s transitional sequence accurately captures the ever-changing tension and human emotions between the two. Mackie plays something along the lines of an anti-hero. His character is aligned with the bureau, but slowly transforms into an advisory-like figure once he befriends Norris. His portrayal of Mitchell is most integral to the plot of “The Adjustment Bureau” since his character initiated the forbidden romance between David and Elise by mistake when he fell asleep at the bus stop when he was supposed to prevent Norris from taking the bus. Slattery and Stamp are simply heartless as the film’s antagonists. They want what’s best for the future generation, but not what’s best for Norris who vigilantly defies the rules of the bureau. Norris embraces his freedom instead of giving into the demands of men who fear change of any proportions. It’s a unique concept that keeps its viewers invested and I must say I feel proud and empowered that I have these privileges David possessed as an American. My brother and I have seen this film repeatedly and I cannot even begin to express my fondness. It always intrigues its audience and I could watch it from now to eternity without growing tiresome.

Drew Mattiola is a third-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at

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