Saturday, September 10, 2011

Movies That Suck: The Adjustment Bureau


Contains Spoilers!

Let me begin by saying that my wife and I are both Matt Damon fans (perhaps for slightly different reasons) so we were both duly excited when his recent thriller The Adjustment Bureau arrived in our mailbox. With high expectations we placed the disc in the player and sat back waiting to experience an edge-of-your-seat thriller driven by high-minded cerebral themes.

The film is loosely inspired by a Phillip K. Dick short story called The Adjustment Team which chronicles the misadventures of real estate salesman Ed Fletcher. Phillip’s work has been successfully adapted to screen on several previous occasions including Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report so I had high hopes. Those hopes quickly caught fire, fell to the ground, and had their burning embers urinated on during the 106 minute running time.
The premise is that Matt Damon’s character is a New York Congressman running for a U.S. Senate seat. While rehearsing a speech in a men’s room, he meets Elise (Emily Blunt) with whom he finds an instant connection. The next day they happen to run into each other on the city bus (sure) and their mutual attraction grows exponentially. Unfortunately “The Bureau” finds their budding romance unacceptable and agents are sent to keep the two apart for all eternity because their relationship would have tremendous implications for the future of the country.

These agents can manipulate common doors by wearing special fedora hats only while turning the handles clockwise. These doors allow them to transcend time and space in order to ensure that humanity continues to live their lives according to a predestined “plan” set forth by a faceless entity known as “The Chairman.” If Damon’s character does not submit to the plan issued by the chairman, a special team will “reset his personality” in order to control him.I presume this is what happened to Al Gore.

Matt Damon refuses to give up on Elise and he is assisted by a rogue agent who lends him a fedora and explains that the bureau is powerless against water. An agent called “The Hammer” is then sent after Damon an explains to him that humanity has no free will because every time they are trusted with it something terrible (Dark Ages, Cuban Missile Crisis, Clear Pepsi) happens.

I don’t even know where to begin. The idea that there is an agency dedicated to keeping human beings on a pre-selected ideal path is almost as ludicrous as the fact that they are powerless against precipitation. And just who is “the chairman” supposed to represent? God? Frank Sinatra? And if each of our paths is predestined for humanity’s maximum benefit, how can they possibly explain the formation and subsequent popularity of Nickelback?

Even I suspend disbelief in order to accept this “agency” whose job it is to maintain the illusion of coincidence to further an agenda of preselected fate, how effective can they be when their powers are completely dependent upon their hat choices. I can’t remember individual human destiny being this reliant on fabric since Wanted introduced us to the “Loom of Fate.”

While I am at it, if providence actually required the use of intermediaries concerning human affairs, wouldn’t it stand to reason that they should have less debilitating limitations? There is nothing inherently frightening about a being whose power in our world is limited to the popularity of knob-based entry doors. According to the logic of the film, a clearly-posted “no-hats” policy and a sliding glass entryway would be sufficient to protect you and your family from these nefarious agents.

It isn’t only the “supernatural” aspects of the film that seem illogical. The entire human love story is less believable than the science-fiction canvas it is painted on. Don’t misunderstand me, the idea of a career politician having a romantic encounter in a men’s room is entirely plausible, it was the implication that said politician was unmarried at the time I found unrealistic. Besides, how many examples do we have of an elected official being the first member of the populace to grasp an important concept?

Eventually, the two lead characters storm the heart of “The Bureau” to proclaim their love to “The Chairman.” Having witnessed both their dedication and witty dialogue, said chairman decides to rewrite their plan so that they can be together. Unfortunately, we never get to see “the chairman” (I was personally hoping for a Rip Torn cameo) so we have to use our imaginations. We are left with a final kiss and slow-motion montage of Matt Damon glancing suspiciously at every middle-aged man wearing a hat.

In one of the film’s most griping exchanges, “The Hammer” finally explains to Matt Damon’s character that the agency influences our paths because we are unable to properly implement our freedom for the betterment of mankind. If this film is any indication, this is one time I would be inclined to agree with him.

This film is rated PG-13 for language, entryway-specific violence, and sustained scenes of congressional monogamy.  

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