Posted April 10, 2011 by William Dunmyer in Uncategorized

Adjustment Bureau: Thrilling Directorial Debut

“The Adjustment Bureau” is a surprisingly effective, well-written, crisply edited Hitchcockian thriller that also works as a love story, with great chemistry between lead actor Matt Damon and co-star Emily Blunt. Additionally, there is a mystical dimension, which also works. These disparate elements come together so well because of the immense talent of first-time director George Nolfi. Take note of Nolfi’s name; you will be hearing much more of him in the years ahead.

Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, “Adjustment Bureau” tells the story of a young politician with Kennedy-esque charisma (Damon) who stumbles upon a frightening secret of the universe on his way to work one day. I won’t give the details away, but I will say that it involves supernatural beings who give him a strange commandment. He is told that he must break off all relations with the beautiful young artist (Blunt) who swept him off his feet just days before. He of course wants to know why he should do this, which leads to more interesting cosmic revelations.

At this point the movie could have drifted in an academic direction, dwelling on philosophical and spiritual questions. But some pretty terrific drama takes over instead. The politician refuses to do as he’s told, and let’s just say that all hell breaks loose. (All heaven breaks loose?)

Movies with great set-ups like this typically have lame payoffs, but “Adjustment Bureau” even has a great ending. Its value shouldn’t be overstated, but this is a mainstream movie that goes well beyond the typical formulas. It doesn’t challenge mainstream audiences very much, but it operates at a much higher quality level than 90% of the movies coming out of the major studios right now. In fact, “Adjustment Bureau” is so good that I give it a good chance of snagging an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the film, however, is that it signals the arrival of a major new American director. George Nolfi, I cannot wait to see what you do next.

William Dunmyer

William Dunmyer is a lifelong cinephile who fell in love with movies at about the age of 5. He lives in New York City.