The works of science fiction writer Philip K Dick are pretty popular in Hollywood. On the whole, his novels and short stories make pretty good films. Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly and Minority Report all started life as Dick-penned sci-fi tales.
The latest Dick story to get the Tinseltown treatment is his short story, Adjustment Team – re-titled The Adjustment Bureau for the movie-going public – and it’s nothing if not peculiar.
Matt Damon is David Norris, a politician whose career (despite a setback following the publication of some photos showing him misbehaving) is on the up. When he meets Elise (Emily Blunt) by chance in the men’s room of New York’s Waldorf Astoria just prior to making a career-defining speech, he is instantly smitten and desperate to see her again. Only she runs off before he can get her number.
It’s at this point that things start to get really strange. When a team of besuited fedora-clad officials intervene and warn him off, life becomes extraordinary for David as he learns that humankind is not actually in charge of its own destiny. Falling in love with Elise is not part of the plan and either he must give her up or face being ‘reset’. But for David, free will is the only thing worth living for – that, and Elise – and he will do all he can to craft his own future, at any cost.
The film is an awkward blend of romantic comedy, political thriller and sci-fi actioner. It’s the proverbial jack of all trades. All three genres are haphazardly woven into the plot creating a lightweight affair that fails to come up to scratch on all levels – it never really provokes thought, stirs emotions nor articulates a particularly compelling sense of intrigue.
The film’s central relationship is undoubtedly its greatest strength. There’s a palpable chemistry between the two leads that feels so real, at times it all seems a bit voyeuristic. But despite Blunt’s naturalistic performance and her innate charm, it feels a little like Elise has been cut and pasted from a Farrelly brothers’ comedy. She frequently plays her role as if in romcom territory and consequently, her presence is somewhat jarring.
Watching this insubstantial popcorn flick, directed by first-timer George Nolfi, at no point do you feel anything bad is going to happen and this is a major reason why the film fails to spark. You never feel that David is genuinely threatened and with everything essentially sanitised, there’s a crucial element lacking that’s vital for any science fiction thriller – tension.
Although throughout, the proceedings may well leave you asking: ‘So what?’, Damon himself is highly watchable, ensuring the entertainment levels remain elevated enough for you to feel you haven’t totally wasted a valuable hour and a half of your life.