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Adjustment Bureau, The

Entry updated 30 July 2018. Tagged: Film.

Film (2011). Universal Studios and Media Rights Capital present a Gambit Pictures production in association with Electric Shepherd Productions. Written and directed by George Nolfi. Based on the story "Adjustment Team" (September/October 1954 Orbit Science Fiction) by Philip K Dick. Cast includes Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery and Terence Stamp. 106 minutes. Colour.

The first feature from the production company established by Dick's daughters during the making of A Scanner Darkly (2006), with Isa Dick Hackett credited as executive producer, was the most commercially successful film of Dick's work after Minority Report (2002) and Total Recall (1990). Any expectations that the Dick estate's closer involvement might inhibit the reflex Hollywood urge to modulate the author's seminal early stories into formulaic chase films (see Paycheck [2003]; Next [2007]) were preemptively disabused by the promotional art, which sold the film on images of Damon and Blunt running hand in hand (the latter in an arresting red frock absent from the actual film). Dick's pointedly insignificant office worker, who blunders on the secret that the world and our memories of it are being continually rewritten by shadowy cosmic operatives (see Secret Masters) akin to Time Police, is now a potential US President who must himself be kept from finding true love with Blunt's rising dance star in order for his loneliness and lack of attachment to be productively sublimated in political ambition. After the initial sequence where the hero walks in on the Adjustment in progress, Dick's storyline is discarded, the Adjustment process is never seen again, and the film defaults to flight mode and a climactic chase through hyperspatial doors (see Matter Transmission) recalling the much better one in Monsters, Inc. (2001). Screenwriter and debutant director Nolfi served time in the writing chain-gang on such heavily-developed studio projects as Timeline (2003), Ocean's Twelve (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) (see Bourne Films) – the last two also vehicles for Damon – and the film's modish engagement with multiple narrative pathways and the plasticity of plot (see Interactive Narrative) plainly feeds, and to a degree reflects, on this experience. Like The Book of Eli (2010), the film courts a conservative Christian sensibility, with the "Special Thanks" credits list headed by "The Chairman", the angelic operatives' own term for their CEO in the sky. This efficiently dissipates any residual sense of tension and threat from the protracted chase, since the angelic pursuers are non-violent and supremely well-intentioned. Viewers can draw the mixed reassurance that their own failure to achieve global impact and successful relationships is the result of a conspiracy by external forces, but that these are part of an ultimately benign divine plan, and may in any case be reversed by direct supplication of the deity. The leads struggle impressively to overcome their characters' respective dullness and kookiness. [NL]


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