'The Adjustment Bureau'
(Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Michael Kelly, et al / PG-13 / 93 mins)
Overview: Matt Damon and Emily Blunt headline this romantic sci-fi drama based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, detailing the troubled love affair between a rising congressman and a gorgeous ballerina. The closer these two lovers get, the harder shadowy forces work to drive them apart by altering the very fabric of time and space.
Verdict: Once neglected, now lionized, the legendary science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick speaks more to our time than he ever did to his own. Starting with 1982's "Blade Runner" and including "Total Recall" and "Minority Report," close to a dozen features based on Dick's work have generated more than $1 billion in revenue. Now "The Adjustment Bureau" is poised to add to that total.
What makes Dick so appealing to our wary, distrustful state of mind is, in novelist Jonathan Lethem's words, his "remarkably personal vision of paranoia and dislocation." Never a great prose stylist, Dick had a visionary's gift for mind-bending ideas about the nature of reality, a gift "Adjustment Bureau" and its notion of unseen forces stage-managing our lives embraces.
This film, however, is Dick with a difference. Though the writer is not usually considered one of the world's great romantics, "Adjustment Bureau" writer-director George Nolfi has taken little more than the core concept from one of Dick's short stories and spun it into an "Is love stronger than fate?" plot with enough romantic interest to attract the likes of Matt Damon and Emily Blunt to the leading roles.
What results, against some odds, is an intriguing entertainment. "Adjustment Bureau's" central concept is certainly ingenious, but the details are a little wonky and don't stand up to too much scrutiny. Although the story's implausible pulp roots are never far away, its stronger aspects are so well sold by a potent cast (including Anthony Mackie and an especially forceful Terence Stamp) that, though it is a near thing, this is finally something we don't want to stop watching.
A good part of the reason for this is the undeniable attraction between stars Damon and Blunt, a charismatic duo whose palpable opposites-attract energy makes up for the speed bumps in the script by Nolfi, best known for co-writing "The Bourne Ultimatum."
Damon plays rising New York politician David Norris, once a tough kid from the Red Hook section of Brooklyn and now the buttoned-down leading contender for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Then the New York Post gets hold of some salacious photos (imagine that!), and Norris finds his whole career path in jeopardy.