Christian Living


The Adjustment Bureau: Movie Review

Star Rating

Movie Info


PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image.


Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Thriller


March 4, 2011


Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Michael Kelly, Terence Stamp


George Nolfi


Universal Pictures


CBN is not endorsing the films or TV shows CBN.com reviews. Our goal is to provide information about the latest in entertainment, both the good and the bad, so you may make an informed decision as to what is appropriate for you and your families.

Is it fate or free will that determines our lives?

That provoking question is what propels the Philip K. Dick-based story in Matt Damon’s new film, The Adjustment Bureau. This philosophical thriller is driven by an adapted screenplay written by first-time director George Nolfi, who wrote two other Damon flicks you may remember, The Bourne Ultimatum and Ocean’s Twelve.

This romantic thriller, wrapped in a life-question-asking yarn, begs moviegoers to think about the fate versus free will debate humankind has wrestled with for centuries. Unfortunately, the film's weaknesses levels its star cast, stellar cinematography, and interesting story to the lower rating.


Ready to break into what looks to be a promising career in Washington, D.C., politician David Norris’ life crosses paths with ballet dancer named Elise. Mysterious and beautiful, she immediately captures David’s heart – something that wasn’t supposed to happen. Soon David realizes that someone is working against him. “Agents of Fate” are, in fact, conspiring to keep the two apart. These puzzling, fedora-wearing men are from what they call The Adjustment Bureau and at the Chairman’s orders; they must keep each person’s life on track. In the face of such odds, David must decide which path he’ll take – the one being set for him or one he creates for himself, with Elise.


Like Norris with the interfering agents, The Adjustment Bureau has a few things working for it, and some against it. What’s good about the Nolfi’s film is its premise, the talent in front of the camera, and behind it. Cinematographer John Toll’s immense talent isn’t lost on The Adjustment Bureau. The two-time Oscar winner captures New York City, the film’s backdrop, beautifully. The opening shot of Norris standing in a hotel hallway perfectly encapsulated the moment and set the tone for a skillfully shot film.

Leads Matt Damon and Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) are nice together. Their initial encounter seems a bit forced, but as the movie progresses their love seems more genuine. Damon and Blunt give believable performances. However, the characters just are not engaging enough to make me really care what happens to them as a couple in the end. Mad Men’s John Slattery as Agent Richardson, The Hurt Locker’s Anthony Mackie as Harry, Norris’ handler, Oscar nominated Terence Stamp, and others supported Damon and Blunt well. The seriousness of Norris’ situation is especially evident in Stamp’s commanding performance as the Bureau’s higher-up who is sent to nudge him back on plan.

Loosely based on the short story by Philip K. Dick, Nolfi’s film asks big questions. Intentionally ambiguous, The Adjustment Bureau doesn’t explicit say who is pulling the strings. Once a graduate student of philosophy, Nolfi wrote the film to be an entertaining, cinematic look at whether we’d do a better job of running our lives or if a higher power would. To a point, he has succeeded.

But, The Adjustment Bureau falters when it comes to its lack-luster ending and questionable content. The film is not as thrilling or action-packed as the theatrical trailer would have you to believe. It’s disappointing in that respect. Once the momentum gets going, the chase is over and the energy fizzles out in the climatic rooftop/explanation scene. Rated PG-13 for foul language and sexual content, The Adjustment Bureau is unsuitable for children.


Without giving too much away, this film does set up a possible life for Norris and Elise that is used in the hopes of curbing his desire to go off the plan. The takeaway from that is disturbing because it says, in some sense, that happiness is worldly success. That and other lacking qualities of The Adjustment Bureau knock it down a peg from a top CBN.com rating.

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