Hollywood has a good track record when it comes to adapting California sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, who was praised by Adam Gopnik for his "mixture of mordant comedy and wild metaphysics."
More than eight movies are based on his stories or novels, including Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall, Steven Spielberg's Minority Report and Richard Linklater's animated A Scanner Darkly. Now comes The Adjustment Bureau, which stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt as star-crossed lovers who discover that their world is run differently than they ever could have imagined. As adapted by rookie writer-turned-director George Nolfi (The Bourne Ultimatum, Oceans Twelve), the combo of Dick's high-concept story and a strong cast yields a slightly clunky yet pleasurably escapist sci-fi romance. In other words, if you can go along for the genre ride without asking too many questions about men in silly hats, you'll have a great time.
The Adjustment Bureau is in theatres March 4. A round up of early reviews, stills and the trailer are below:
After Damon's charismatic rising politician's campaign for the New York Senate is derailed, he practices his concession lines in a men's room. There he meets lovely modern dancer Blunt, who inspires him to give the speech of his life. When he meets her again by chance on a bus, he falls hard. But this second meeting was not supposed to happen. Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) nearly steals the movie as one of many hat-wearing agents who are tasked with making sure that their Chairman's master plan stays on course. A bit like Dick-influenced The Matrix, our world is not what it seems; unseen forces are at work behind the scenes. We may not have a much free will as we thought. Can true love find a way?
- Todd McCarthy, THR:
"The thematic impulse behind The Adjustment Bureau is a familiar one, that true love is worth more than anything else this life has to offer. The keys to Nolfi putting it over effectively in this real world but quasi-sci-fi context are his great success in making the connection between David and Elise so convincing and worth fighting for, and his skillful characterization of 'The System' not as some portentously portrayed evil outfit but as a pragmatically run operation dedicated to saving humanity from itself. Lightness of touch is not what one expects in fictional portrayals of monolithic entities bent on world domination, so the subtle tone Nolti maintains here represents something fresh and welcome…Equally responsible for keeping the viewer on the film's side is the excellent rapport between Damon and Blunt,…[who is] most vibrant and alive in a romantic pairing; Visually, the film is sheerest pleasure. Ace cinematographer John Toll soaks the countless New York locations for all they're worth, capped by a beautiful top-of-the-world climax."
- Jonathan Crocker, Total Film:
"Love has taken a battering lately…But things weren’t always like this…The Adjustment Bureau swings for something just as special [as A Matter of Life and Death, 1946]. That a kiss can change the course of your fate. And that true love will find a way. On a marginally less profound level, it also proves that even if he was an angel, Terence Stamp would still scare the bejesus out of you…Blunt is funny and anarchic, Damon is determined and disarming. The chemistry is perfect and Nolfi, who previously wrote screenplays for Ocean’s Twelve and The Bourne Ultimatum, gives them some lovely, pure, romantic dialogue…If only his direction swelled with the same passion – first time in the chair, Nolfi plays safe, tiptoeing a fine line between efficient and bland. Your heart may flutter, but your pulse won’t race."
- The Vine:
"It’s the swing between the two narrative concerns—love and free will—that sometimes falters…It’s a realist flick in the dominant Hollywood romantic-action style, caked with a little sci-fi frosting…in the end, what makes the film enjoyable is the on-screen chemistry between Damon and Blunt. It’s easy to imagine that it was an intuitive sense of this at the time of production that gave the romance story an upper hand. Damon and Blunt give good performances when together, particularly in the early, flirtatious scenes where things feel nicely improvised. They're also fine in the individual roles, but the sparks are mostly there in their flirting: this is as the story would have it, where the artistic Blunt's wit and unpredictability opens up something warmer in Norris, the political machine man. It’s universally recognizable fare: love lost, love found, free will, fate. The film meanders between its two styles and sets of concerns, but it adds up to a solid piece of cinema entertainment with a few brain-tweaking moments of paranoia."
Here's Caryn James' review.
[Sophia Savage contributed to this report; photos courtesy of Universal]