Matt Damon seems to have a knack for getting into situations where other people, usually scary government agents, seem to be controlling his life. Jason Bourne is the prime example. Now we have David Norris, the youngest Congressman ever now running for New York’s Senate seat. He loses in a landslide after the New York Post publishes an old photo where he mooned others at a college reunion. Practicing his concession speech in the hotel’s men’s room, he meets Elise (Emily Blunt), who is hiding out after crashing a wedding. He’s smitten and her inspiration helps him to deliver a stirring speech that ensures a comeback.
Norris seems to be controlling his destiny, but that’s about to change. The Adjustment Bureau, corporate types in suits and hats, has decided to intervene to make sure Norris doesn’t screw up this time. On his way to work (he’s taken a corporate job), he sees Elise and takes her number. That encounter, however, wasn’t in the master plan and the Adjustment Bureau must now work overtime to keep Norris and Elise apart.
Are we in control of our own lives? Other films have played with this theme. In The Truman Show Jim Carrey discovers that his life is being manipulated by others and being broadcast to a national audience. In Sliding Doors, Gwyneth Paltrow discovers that one missed train can alter her future. In this film, Damon must decide between true love and tampering with the future. His path leads to the Senate, while Elise is on her way to becoming a famous dancer and choreographer. If he insists on staying with her, he’s told, he will destroy her dream. He may have been willing to sacrifice his own career, but not hers. Yet, is there any doubt that true love will eventually win?
The Adjustment Bureau’’s plot is rather thin and we never have the satisfaction of actually seeing The Chairman, the top guy (or gal?) who is in charge. Matt Damon, however, does what he does best, staying a step ahead of the bad guys while always trying to do the right thing. And those guys in suits and hats! On the heels of our financial meltdown, what could be more unnerving than being stalked by Wall Street stiffs?
We also have panoramic views of midtown seen from perhaps the Top of the Rock, then come down to ground level, bursting through a mysterious door that takes us first to the outfield in Yankee Stadium, then to the base of the Statue of Liberty.
The Adjustment Bureau is fantasy, but thought-provoking nonetheless. Are we in control or do we merely think we are? We probably will never know. In the near term, however, we can be forgiven if we flinch when being followed by a group of men in Brooks Brothers suits.