Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau

Rated: PG
Director: George Nolfi
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp, John Slattery
Running Time: 106 minutes
Release Date: In cinemas now

‘Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us?’

This is one of the tag lines for this movie and it is because of this line alone that I decided it was a must see at the cinema.


David Norris (Damon) is running for a seat in the US Senate and all is going very, very well. Clearly, he is on track to become a President of the United States at some point in the future but then a sordid tabloid story derails his career. At just this moment in time, he meets the beautiful dancer, Elise Sellas (Blunt). Norris is spellbound and the pair quickly fall in love.

Enter the mysterious men-in-black types, The Adjustment Bureau, who will do anything in their power to keep the pair apart. It is now that Norris must decide if he controls his own destiny or if it is simply pre-destined. With New York City as a backdrop, the movie then follows Norris over the next few years as he faces and deals with choices and consequences….fate and chance.


The beginning of the movie with it’s slew of famous political and social commentators and news people, many of whom Australian viewers would be familiar with, gave a John F Kennedy kind of hype to the character of Norris. I can imagine scenes like this 50 years ago when the young JFK stepped into the public arena, his sights firmly set on the White House.

Damon is charming and endearing as a romantic leading man. I am so used to him as Bourne or at the helm of action movies that seeing him as the romantic hero was a pleasant surprise. His on screen chemistry with Blunt was tangible and entirely believable. It is after all the cornerstone of the movie. Their love and delight in each other is really lovely to watch.

The proper introduction of the men of The Adjustment Bureau was the first time the movie faltered. They are certainly mysterious but are in no way ominous or threatening as you would expect of people who can manipulate the future of humans. And threaten and manipulate they do.

Norris is told in no uncertain terms what to expect should he not make the correct choices. These men are dressed in grey suits and always wear hats…the kind worn by men in the 50’s and 60’s. More harkening back to the JFK years perhaps?

It is here that the viewer is also shown the map of the human’s life, in this case it is Norris. The map moves within the pages of a book and is intriguing to say the least. It is more like an architect’s blueprint which makes it even more interesting.

For these men to have such all encompassing power and to have at their disposal the map of a person’s life which they can and do manipulate should the human go ‘off plan’, well I guess I watched too much X-Files back in the 90’s because I like my men-in-black just a little more sinister.


The story moves along at a steady pace and you find yourself really cheering for David and Elise as it becomes clear that not even the cleverest of manipulations can keep this couple apart. Okay, so they do have some help but I will leave that up to you to discover from whom, when, where and why.

The story is also easy enough to follow, given it’s subtle complexities, twists and turns. I have seen it likened to The Matrix which should give you some idea what to expect. It is based on a short story so I found it to be overly simplistic in some parts and would have preferred to have characters and the story fleshed out just a little more.

The acting and production quality of the movie is, as to be expected of a Damon film, of the highest standard. The scenes in and around, above and beneath New York City are wonderful to watch. A few surprises are to be had in this area of the movie as well.

I enjoyed this movie but obviously, I expected more. Perhaps it’s just a sign of the times that men-in-black are now just men in grey…more politically correct then their predecessors. It would make a fantastic date night movie as it has enough romance for the romantics and enough action and intrigue for the action buffs. Depending on why you go to see this movie, for romance or action, will determine how you feel about the ending.

I would love to hear your opinions…

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