What if all those odd coincidences in life weren't by chance but were the result of the machinations of a secretive shadowy organisation that is manipulating human destiny? This is the intriguing premise of The Adjustment Bureau, a science fiction / romance film based on a short story by Philip K Dick.
This is definitely a movie for those who believe in love at first sight as politician David Norris, played by Matt Damon, is absolutely besotted with Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) from their very first meeting. Damon gives a finely crafted performance which channels the oratory skills of John F Kennedy and the charisma of Bill Clinton. Blunt was quite charming which meant that you could believe that Norris would fall for Emily, though the speed at which this occurs was unrealistic and the script would have benefitted from some additional scenes showing how their relationship developed.
Naturally this being a thriller the path to true love is not smooth and the couple soon find their lives disrupted by the mysterious men of the Bureau, a collective of men in suits. It seems that a love affair would be detrimental to the development of Norris's political career so must be ended. Whilst it is an interesting notion that those with successful careers are loveless the film does not explore the concept in any depth at all, unfortunately.
There are indeed some interesting philosophical issues raised by the story such as whether there is free will or predestination, should we prioritise career or personal life, are there unseen aspects of reality which we are unable to perceive, but it soon becomes obvious that this isn't a movie which wants to ponder over any of these issues, preferring to indulge in many chase scenes which soon become monotonous. The narrative was somewhat plodding and culminates in an unsatisfying deus ex machina which didn't really make much sense in light of previous events.
There were also some really clunky scenes which made the movie rather unbelievable. In the scene where Norris improvised his speech, revealing the artifice of his public presentation, none of his team were unhappy with this turn of events which was just weird. No-one bats an eyelid at someone ordering water in a bar (perhaps this is an alternative reality where prohibition never ended). Worst of all was when a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle and flew through the air, yet said was he ok! You would have thought that someone would have called for an ambulance or something, though this being the USA they might have checked his bank balance first.
This was a movie that didn't really do anything that hasn't been seen before with elements reminiscent of various other science fiction films such as Dark City, Minority Report and The Matrix. It was nice to look at with good use made of the New York setting, if not particularly innovative. The score was somewhat intrusive, serving to overwhelm the action rather than underpin it.
Overall this was moderately entertaining, but the combination of romance and science fiction resulted in a work which was not truly satisfying in either genre, as each only received a superficial treatment. The cast made for a passable way to spend your time but the film did not fulfil its potential.