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Elements coalesce in sci-fi thriller

By Noelani Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 16:14:00 02/25/2011

Filed Under: Entertainment (general), Cinema

GROUNDED IN narrative and character development, the film, ?The Adjustment Bureau,? makes for a solid, satisfying watch, leaving you with that full, contented feeling that good storytelling imparts.

The film is adapted from a 1954 short story by Philip K. Dick, whose previous works have already been made into movies, among them ?Blade Runner,? ?Total Recall,? ?Minority Report? and ?A Scanner Darkly.? It is by no means a faithful adaptation, however, so don?t expect anything (apart from the overarching idea itself) to be particularly Dickian.

The best way to enjoy the screen version is to take it on its own terms. If you?ve read Dick?s short story, remember it fondly, but don?t think about it while you?re watching the movie, because while it does keep Dick?s concept of a reality behind our reality, where strangely bureaucratic forces are pulling the strings, it isn?t really the core of the movie.

What is central to the film is a love story, the developing romance between a politician and a ballet dancer, and what they decide to do about it when it turns out that Fate has other plans for their lives.

Brilliant career

Directed by George Nolfi, ?The Adjustment Bureau? stars Matt Damon as David Norris, an up-and-coming politician who has his sights set on a senate seat, and Emily Blunt as Elise Sellas, a talented ballet dancer with a brilliant career ahead of her.

Then, something goes awry backstage, with men in fedoras who are apparently controlling the ?show.? David stumbles into the middle of an ?adjustment??and things start going off-plan. Whether or not they get back on it is something that David and Elise have to make a conscious decision about.

The movie works largely because the protagonists? pairing is something you can believe in, and they?re real, well-rounded characters you can root for. Damon and Blunt have an easy, unforced chemistry that lights up the screen, and both actors give finely nuanced performances that communicate their characters? strong connection with a mere change in posture or a tilt of a head.

The supporting cast, particularly Anthony Mackie as Harry Mitchell, David?s ?case officer,? and Terence Stamp, as the bureau?s troubleshooter, Thompson, does a good job, as well.

By keeping the focus on the characters and letting the story unfold naturally, Nolfi gives us a film that, despite its speculative setup and musings on destiny and free will, is actually a good, old-fashioned quest. He keeps a light hand on the directorial reins, letting the elements that are already in place?story, characters, and a compact script?seamlessly coalesce.

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