More from Senator Norris, please
This star-powered, mind-bending thriller is a pure cinematic delight, writes Tara Brady
IF EVER A writer had cause to rise up from the grave and make zombie chow out of film-makers, it’s Philip K Dick. We might point at the source material and find fault; there are more than a few unlovely sentences across the author’s 44 novels, and some of the later hardcore psychedelic passages don’t seem to make a lick of sense. But nobody as conceptually dazzling as PKD should wind up on the credits of Total Recall (dumb) or Next (dumber) or Paycheck (dumberer).
An ideas man, the writer’s screwy and prolific flair for science fiction ought to have inspired an entire subgenre of superior special effects bonanzas. Instead, Dick movies seldom have more wit than, well, dick movies. Nine out every 10 electric sheep are agreed: all 23 versions of Blade Runner are the business, and Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly is a stone groove. The rest is noise.
The Adjustment Bureau presents a peculiar case. Nobody could say that debuting director George Nolfi’s adaptation of this forgotten short story (an orphan tale without a copyright holder) is slavishly faithful to the corny cold war original. But Nolfi has found a taut, pleasing movie without mangling the author’s neat primary conceit.
As the film, opens US Senate hopeful David Norris (Matt Damon: no, really, that’s the character’s name) has just blown a massive lead in the polls when he bumps into Elise (Emily Blunt), an endearingly sweary ballerina. Sparks fly, a reaction that inspires a legion of temporal agents to take action. So far as these karma police – “Angels? You have many names for us” – are concerned, Damon and Blunt must be kept apart despite their blazing onscreen chemistry.
Can our star-crossed lovers outrun and outsmart their otherworldly pursurers? Will Harry Mitchell (Antony Mackie), the agent who has spent years watching over Norris, go against the grand plan to help out his longtime charge? And are we to understand that Terence Stamp is God’s boot boy?
It’s not surprising that writerdirector Nolfi, who co-authored the screenplay for The Bourne Ultimatum, manufactures a frenetic commotion that could be subtitled Bourne vs Universe. As time travelling, sci-fi, rom-dram actioners go, The Adjustment Bureau fits snugly between Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Wings of Desire, far, far away from the fag end of the genre where they keep The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Watch it again and Nolfi’s film takes on the characteristics of a benevolent reprise of The Parallax View. Look over there: its Jon Stewart playing himself; over here we find James Carville and Mary Matalin. This is a picture with devious political, metaphysical and philosophical edges, cunningly disguised as a relentless postInception hunt-’em-down. A final thrilling denouement requiring the wearing of hats is a showstopper.
Blunt and Damon dance a deft two-step as the repeatedly thwarted romantics. They suit one another; both incline toward natural rhythms and deceptive understatement until bam! they raise an eyebrow or flash you with a disarming movie star smile. It requires all of their collective charms to prevent Mackie from making off with the picture. The actor’s worn, doubting bureaucrat is a consistent delight.
Who knew they still made blockbusters like this? More Senator David Norris pictures, please.
Sparks ignite: Emily Blunt and Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau