The Adjustment Bureau

The work of the late author Philip K. Dick is something of a box office gold mine. Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report—all critical and financial successes—are among the films adapted from his writings. The Adjustment Bureau, with its fascinating premise, looked to be in line to join the list.Imagine if everything attributed to “chance” was actually put in place by an unseen team of agents making sure things go according to “The Plan.” Now picture a man fighting against The Plan to be with the woman he loves. It ought to be the mind-bending thriller of the year, right? Wrong. The Adjustment Bureau is mired in predictable romance, clichés and forgettable dialogue.David Norris (Matt Damon) is a young New York congressman who loses a Senate election thanks to his bad boy tendencies. He meets a free-spirited dancer, Elise (Emily Blunt), while rehearsing his concession speech in a hotel restroom and they impulsively kiss before parting ways. Meanwhile, a mysterious gang of men in hats, the titular Adjustment Bureau, oversees the situation.Some months later, one of the men in hats, Harry (Anthony Mackie), is tasked with making sure David gets to work late. He fails, and by chance, David meets Elise on a bus where they reconnect. David walks into his office earlier than expected and catches the Bureau performing “recalibrations” on his co-workers. With no choice, the men of the Bureau explain their role to David and they tell him that he cannot be with Elise because it isn’t part of The Plan. David isn’t going to take that lying down.When a film hinges on romance, the romance needs to be believable or at least interesting. That isn’t the case here. David and Elise’s brief onscreen meetings don’t show the “I-can’t-live-without-you” love they supposedly feel for each other. The agents of the Bureau, who work for God, Time, Fate or Whoever (thanks Quantum Leap) seem like an interesting bunch until they start clumsily revealing what they do.The Adjustment Bureau is at its most engrossing when a senior agent, Thompson (a classic-cool Terence Stamp), takes on David’s case, but, bookended by a dull opening and injection-molded finale, all that remains interesting about the film is its initial concept. Everything else is an unnecessary adjustment.