Releasing Studio: Universal
Disc/Transfer Specifications: 1080p 1.85:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Video Codec: VC-1
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Director: George Nolfi
Starring Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie
OSAGE'S PLOT ANALYSIS:
In a trend that seems to be stemming from the phenomenon created by Chris Nolan’s Inception, this pseudo-reality bordering-on-sci fi thriller has all the elements this genre (and, apparently, a modern society/theater-going public) calls for – “guys” who are not really human dressed in business suits and JFK-like hats, creating “fate plans” for people, ensuring these plans are followed while all the while claiming to be working for a “higher power” (or, as it’s known in The Adjustment Bureau, “The Chairman”)…is this G-d? An angel? A demon? We never know. But you know something? The Adjustment Bureau was much better than I expected, and leaps and bounds better than the other film we viewed in the same sitting, the remake of True Grit.
In George Nolfi’s The Adjustment Bureau, Matt Damon portrays a very young New York politician running for state senator (a bit far-fetched and unbelievable, but the narrative plays with this implausibility rather well, as Damon’s character constantly refers to his age during the campaign as do the “mock” news reports from genuine New York broadcast stations), and when he seems to be losing the race to his opponent, he runs into a Waldorf Astoria men’s room to clear his head. Thinking he’s alone, he begins to talk to himself, trying to make sense of his defeat and the long road of the campaign, but from out of one of the stalls pops Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada), snickering and giggling over what she just heard Damon say to himself. Damon informs her this is a men’s room she’s in, but the sassy Blunt claims she realizes, as she ducked in there to avoid being picked up by hotel security for crashing a wedding at the Waldorf. An instant connection is made between the two of them, and it’s this connection that drives the remainder of the narrative.
The aforementioned men in business suits seem to be following Damon’s character, and we soon learn that these are members of “the adjustment bureau,” kind of henchmen “working” for someone they call “The Chairman” and who need to keep Damon to a certain life plan. It begins to make you wonder exactly what our lives are all about – do we really have free will over our actions each day of our lives, or is there a greater power controlling us like puppets? At any rate, the bureau official assigned to Damon’s character is supposed to make sure he spills his coffee before getting on a New York City bus one morning – and to ensure under no circumstances do him and Blunt’s character meet again – as this somehow will alter his fate design, but the “agent” falls asleep on a park bench, missing the opportunity of making Damon spill his coffee before he gets on the bus. He takes chase after Damon, who has already made it on the bus, and who actually runs into Blunt once again, asleep on the same bus. Sitting next to her, the two of them chit chat and catch up, while Damon blatantly checks out Blunt’s toned, nylon-clad legs crossed beneath her ridiculously short denim skirt – meanwhile, the bureau agent is still chasing the bus, trying to get to Damon. Blunt gives Damon her number this time, but a whole bunch of incidents ensue at this point – Damon is chased down by suited members of the bureau, who eventually catch him inside his office building, knocking him out and eventually waking him to explain the situation.
He’s informed that they are members of this organization that must keep things happening a certain way – fate plans – and that Damon’s insistence on seeing and falling in love with Blunt’s character is simply not in the cards. Futhermore, he’s eventually told by Terrence Stamp’s character that if he continues to pursue her, this will lead to her dreams of becoming a renowned ballet dancer going down the toilet (well, he didn’t put it in those words) and other unfortunate events. Warned to stay away from her, Damon’s character continues to look for Blunt throughout the film, as the bureau members shadow all of his movements. We witness Damon’s character go from political possibility to losing the race and entering the work force, while all the time continuing to run into Blunt and constantly losing touch with her, thanks to what the members of this bureau are doing to separate the two of them – as based on the fate plan. Eventually, Damon’s “agent” assigned to him – the African-American bureau member who was supposed to make sure he spilled his coffee that morning and who messed this whole fate plan up to begin with – lets him in on the secrets of how his organization works, and teaches him how to manipulate the “doors” in which these “guardians” come and go through our world so that he may find Blunt before she ends up marrying her ex. The whole thing gets a bit convoluted and hokey, as the sci fi begins to mix with a “love story” wherein Damon’s character is determined not to live without Blunt’s, and we’re never really told or understand what these “beings” are working for this “bureau” that “adjust” people’s lives to go according to a fate plan – I mean, are they angels working for G-d? Who is this “Chairman” they speak of? Are they aliens of some kind? We never know.
Damon portrays his character with palpable realism, behaving just like a desperate man on the run from unknown pursuers would, under those circumstances. Blunt is a bit more than window dressing here, performing with her thick British accent as a New York ballet dancer trying to figure out why Damon’s senator character keeps popping up in her life just to disappear for long periods of time once again. The essence of the plot is that Damon will stop at nothing to find this chick he believes he loves – defying the “ground rules” set by this bureau and flying in the face of a so-called fate plan they claim he must stick to…and this doesn’t include Blunt. Throughout, Damon portrays the hyperexcited, desperate renegade running from these higher powers with forceful conviction, constantly demanding answers from them on why they want so badly for the two of them to be separated. The conclusion of the film seemed a bit underwhelming, occurring on a rooftop just before Blunt’s character was going to marry her ex in a New York courthouse – after, apparently, not hearing from Damon’s character once again for a long period of time – as Damon desperately attempts to explain to her why this has all been happening, going in and out of the “doors” the Adjustment Bureau uses to infiltrate our world to provide her proof. As they’re chased by the bureau once again, they end up on a New York building rooftop, closed in on both sides as Stamp’s character warns Damon once again of the consequences of what he’s doing. But, the concluding sequence suggests that we as humans can actually change our fate if we want, negating the entire looming, impending nature of the Adjustment Bureau – I’m not sure; it just didn’t seem that satisfying to me.
VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
In typical Universal fashion, The Adjustment Bureau came in a spiffy, clean, detailed 1.85:1 Blu-ray transfer that filled my screen without letterboxing – what stood out on this disc most of all, believe it or not, was the presence of significant amounts of film grain in the background…something I haven’t seen in quite awhile. Most likely due to complaints of the majority of “average” Blu-ray users that the studios picked up on, many transfers today are slick and noise-free, with grain rubbed out via noise reduction techniques and such, much to the dismay of true film enthusiasts who would actually prefer to have their film grain added in if there was none present in the original stock. That’s going to open up an entire argument here, so let’s move beyond that – suffice to say, The Adjustment Bureau carried a good deal of film grain in many sequences, but the scenes were never distracting, and overall, it kept a very filmlike presentation on the disc.
The transfer was otherwise clean and detailed, with shadows in dark sequences pretty much spot-on and hues leaning a bit towards the blue, cold side – certain sequences exhibited some dialed-back, subdued colors, but when called upon, the transfer opened its palate up, exploding with detail and perceived depth.
AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
The English DTS-HD Master Audio mix, in a 5.1 channel arrangement, was typical for Blu-ray releases today; dialogue was a bit on the low, shy side, and the entire mix could have used slightly more push in aggressiveness, especially given the subject matter.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATIONS:
A good rental to check out. My wife actually wants to buy it, she enjoyed it so much. I wasn’t bowled over by this film, but it seemed to be an entertaining synergy of, say, something like the strange visuals and mayhem of Vanilla Sky and the fate plan-esque sets of Inception. Some have even gone so far to call it a “love story amidst a sci fi plot”…that’s a decent enough summary.
Let me know what you thought of The Adjustment Bureau if you saw it, as I prepare my next review, the utterly disappointing True Grit!