Sunday, July 31, 2011

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp
Director: George Nolfi
Runtime: 106 min.
Verdict: The Bourne’s Ultimatum to God himself. Yup it is exactly as cheesy as it sounds.
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Thriller

        The Adjustment Bureau often finds its dashing young Congressman David Norris (Mr. Damon) smack bang in the middle of the screen, alone, him pitted against it. It could be life, could be political fortunes, and as it turns out, could be the plans of the lord himself. In Bruce Almighty, a similarly reductive predicament about a man and the ways of his fate, Bruce was dissatisfied with his everyday-Joe life, wanting to be somebody. Here, we have a situation wherein our Congressman would rather lead one of those everyday-Joe lives rather than be somebody. Despite its ugliness, Mr. Carrey’s film probably advocated pragmatism in life. Mr. Damon’s advocates anything but.
        Dear reader, my aim isn’t to argue the politics inside these films, but to understand the different stages of adolescence we’re dealing here. As is required Bruce had a rather beautiful wife in Ms. Aniston. David had only found what could potentially be the love of his life. In a moment that feels like a confession on the part of The Adjustment Bureau David does land a generous peek on Elise’s (Ms. Blunt) glorious thighs. It is not a stretch of the imagination when I claim that he desires to be somewhere around there, and for long stretches of time. He pursues his desire, inspite of the agents of fate advising him against such an enterprise. You know that classic dilemma where we either can have our girl or our life. One might be reminded of Guddu in Kaminey and the fate of the little map he had charted for himself. Or one could be reminded of Fight Club. Oh yeah, adolescence is all around us, and comes in all sizes, shapes and ages. As someone has noted, there needs to be something to the fact that we had two films –this one here and Limitless – both releasing around the same time and both having young good looking actors well set on the road to Presidency. You see, the President’s primary responsibility has to be that of a rockstar. Always has been that way.
        A good time to remind you of John Hurt’s wrinkled face towering above London in V for Vendetta. The archetypical face of the ageing and archaic establishment. Also Mr. Chris Cooper, Mr. Albert Finney, Mr. Brian Cox, Mr. David Strathairn. All faces of the establishment in what might probably be the quintessential anti-establishment genre films of the aughties – The Bourne franchise – with the quintessential rebel superhero of our times – Jason Bourne aka Matt Damon. Ah, and of course Ms. Joan Allen. And Mr. Terence Stamp here. And Mr. Anthony Mackie. No other superhero has convinced us more with his abilities. Not V, not anybody. It is one of the glorious identifications we’ve found at the movies – with no great political agenda but only to remain happy with ourselves – and when we were bothered we took the fight to the establishment. The key here is that the establishment’s primary job is to bother us, and it does it without a great reason. Mr. Damon, I believe, has more or less become the face of this romantic rebellion. And here he is merely another avatar of Bourne, where he runs once and gets caught, and he plans it out and runs again and then in a moment of epiphany takes a u-turn and runs straight into their office. And boy can he run. I mean literally, although I wouldn’t count out the figurative aspect, especially when a campaign speech has him declare war against the old brigade and plant a firm kick on their posteriors.
        The old brigade, or let us say the Adjustment bureau, keeping in tradition with Hollywood’s stereotyping of the establishment, are stern mostly humorless souls walking around uptight in fedoras and overcoats having little idea about the anachronism they are causing around. You might be reminded of stuff like 1984. Also, there are, again in keeping with the traditions, no women among the bunch. A conservative lot, I guess. And you might be also mistaken into believing that Mr. Damon, in his red and blue, with the American flag behind him, vanquished in the elections, and may be “unjustly” so because the beautiful Elise describes the opponent as a tool, is some sort of a Captain America himself. Or the quintessential liberal. Weinergate reminded a lot of folks about this film.
        The problem is this films reminds a lot and provides very little of its own. As some of the film’s opening moments find Norris in the middle of long halls, you think you are in for an existential-heavy examination of a man, and the film almost prepares you for it. And as long as magic hats and magic fingers and fancy diaries with real-time maps/charts of a man’s decision-tree don’t make an appearance, you feel curious. When they do, you feel silly. Uncle Boonmee prepares you for its world. This film assumes you would be prepared for the obligatory arguments on fate and free-will, and that the natural dislike for the “ageing-establishment” would guide you through. Since they are called the Adjustment Bureau, God is called The Chairman. That ought to tell you how deep the film’s spirituality is. The sad part is, in there somewhere, when Norris only has Elise in his mind for three whole years, and the whole of New York to search, I felt I was in for a compelling film. In the City of Sylvia. But he finds her the next frame, and she has a contingency boyfriend, and then I lost all interest. I hate it when films make that character nothing more than a tool to raise the emotional stakes. I hate it even more when the tool fails at it.

Incidental:



1 comment:

Thomas Watson said...

I only just got around to watching this, and it was pretty good! I think it would have been much better as a comedy, with some Bureau middlemen as the protagonists, and Matt Damon refusing to comply. Very interesting ideas though, worth a look.