Thursday, 10 March 2011

REVIEW: The Adjustment Bureau

So in conclusion Ms Blunt, this is why the world will end if you don't sleep with me. Plus I'm Matt Damon.

Philip K. Dick has pretty much become the Shakespeare of Sci-Fi as far as cinema is concerned. Adaptations of his work have a credibility going in that often they don't deserve, sure Blade Runner is a classic, A Scanner Darkly is weirdly effective and Minority Report is a ride, but fuck. Have any of you guys seen Screamers? How about Next? Paycheck? Expecting a classic every time of a Dick adaptation is to be unfair. What makes his work so movie friendly is that its concept heavy and content light, often short stories lasting no more then 50 pages, he presents the idea and film-makers choose what to do with it. Ridley Scott creates a poetic Orwellian nightmare, Linklater creates a freaky yet insightful exploration of character and Spielberg makes a fast-paced blockbuster. Dick's work seems to be merely a template, whether its good or not depends on the talents of the film-maker in question.

In this case screenwriter Goerge Nolfi tries his hand at directing, fresh of Bourne Ultimatum credbility.And right of the bat, Nolfi's world is notably dry, liking the visual excitement or even interest when perhaps there could have been. The Adjustment Bureau isn't a terrible movie, containing some neat execution of the ideas and some good performances. But it feels somehow much blander then it had to be, much more of a run of the mill thriller then was necessary. The central thesis, which is basically if God has A Plan, then how is there such a thing as free will? Of course for fear of alienating and angering, God becomes ' the Chairman' and everything is made suitably secular. There's not a lot to any character really, all are simply types. Nolfi relies on the innate likability of Matt Damon and Emily Blunt to get him by, and generally that pays off. Flabbergasted protagonist Damon isn't my favorite kind of Damon but he does it fine. And Blunt is simply required to be pretty and charming. Fairing better are the various members of the bureau, from an awesome Anthony Mackie performance in a role that feels as if its written for John Turturro or something, to Roger Sterling as a sci-fi bad man courtesy of John Slattery, which admittedly was pretty awesome. Terence Stamp's calm and commanding presence is welcome though, when it arrives.

But Bureau isn't one of the better Dick adaptations. Nolfi focuses too much on making it a piece of entertainment then exploring the cerebral aspects, which is fine, but as a piece of entertainment it only works up to a point. And it is perhaps a little too lifeless to really be anything other then an acceptable divergence for a couple of hours. This comes down to Nolfi being a fairly average film-maker, I think because I've no doubt an astounding movie could be made out of the same material. With Philip K. Dick it seems, it depends almost fatally on whose hands its in.

Rating: 5/10


Nicholas Prigge said...

Damn. You're totally right. Anthony Mackie's role did feel John Turturro-ish. Which just reinforces how a great of an actor Mackie is. That guy needs more leading roles.

Louis Baxter said...

Indeed. Its hard to believe that this is his first wide-release role since he gave arguably the best performance in a best picture winner. Waste of talent.