Writer/director George Nolfi makes a smooth transition from screenwriter to filmmaker with his feature film debut. As the writer of such intrigue-action movies as The Bourne Ultimatum and The Sentinel, Nolfi knows a thing or two about creating suspense.
Loosely based on a 1954 short story by Philip K. Dick, Matt Damon makes a believable politician as David Norris. He's a blue-collar hotshot who gets robbed of a U.S. Senate seat after a tabloid revelation about a display of temper back in his college days. The sting of defeat is lessened when the young all-American everyman meets a beautiful dancer named Elise (Emily Blunt) in the men's room of the hotel where he faces disappointed supporters. Elise's story about hiding from hotel security in a toilet stall after being caught crashing a wedding seems unlikely.
Nonetheless, the forced plot point allows romantic sparks to fly between Damon and Blunt.
The actors' convincing onscreen chemistry puts a simmer under the artificial sci-fi storyline that hovers above. There's a clear comparison between The Adjustment Bureau and Inception. Both films use the filmic medium for its obvious ability to surprise the viewer with juxtaposed environments that compress space and time. Here, a midtown Manhattan office building door might lead onto the field at Yankee Stadium or let out on a cobblestone SoHo backstreet. Such metaphysical manipulation is the narrative backdrop for an old-fashioned idea about a small group of bureaucrats controlling all human interaction a la Terry Gilliam's Brazil.
The Adjustment Bureau has a less threatening appeal than Inception. Its clearly stated romantic connection is the heart of the puzzle. Eschewing the woof and boom of narrative false-bottoms and faceless men firing blank rounds of ammunition proves effective in putting across a simple story about two people who desperately want to be together. The simplicity works. Grade: B-
Opens March 4. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.