There is a good movie buried somewhere in “The Adjustment Bureau,” but it is buried so deeply and so well that it only peeks out occasionally, content to spend the rest of its time hidden under what might have been. Now, I’m not saying it is a bad movie; I was mildly entertained, fairly invested in the proceedings. I managed to stay in the theater for every one of its hundred and six minutes. It was pleasant enough – the problem was that I wanted it to be more, and I think it wanted to be more, but it couldn’t get any further than pleasant.
Basically, “The Adjustment Bureau” lacks any sort of definite purpose. It can’t decide whether it wants to be an existential rumination or star-crossed romance, action thriller or political intrigue or Black Swan: The Vaguely Halfhearted Sequel. It tries to be all of these things and ends up feeling only detached and unfocused. If the movie had chosen a goal and stuck to it, it might have at least been able to pull off a spectacular fail, and I would have respected that. But it jumps through time and setting and genre so quickly that it is extremely difficult to forge any sort of relationship to this film.
That being said, Matt Damon is the type of actor who can carry a movie from mediocre to pretty good on charm alone, and he is the saving grace of this movie. Granted, I would pay twelve dollars to watch Matt Damon play solitaire for an hour and a half (incidentally, I believe that was actually the plot of Ocean’s 13), but he carries himself with such an easy likability that it’s impossible to be frustrated while he’s onscreen. His character is, of course, ridiculous, a total cliché and flat as a pancake, but, again, there are worse things than to watch Matt Damon play MATT DAMON. Likewise, Emily Blunt’s character is so flimsy it’s basically transparent, but she’s pleasant enough and watchable enough and I kind of like seeing Damon with another wide-eyed, dark haired British chick (honestly, it took me the first ten minutes of the movie to realize she wasn’t actually Minnie Driver). And I like the fact that the movie took the time to flesh out the relationship between these two characters – very little is more aggravating than being told that two cardboard cutouts are in love because fate said so.
The fact that the movie did this is, however, an aberration; as a rule, the movie refuses to spend very much time on anything. Action sequences, love scenes, even montages – the film hops from one thing to another as if afraid you’ll get bored if a character finishes a sentence. Like I said before, there are some great bits in this film, but it’s always so impatient to get onto the next one that we don’t get to appreciate the last. Ultimately, that is what this movie is – a collection of great bits that would have been a great whole if someone had gotten the film to stop moving for five damn minutes.
“The Adjustment Bureau” feels less like a movie and more like a bunch of really good ideas someone got bored with but had already spent too much money on to throw away. I wasn’t bored during the movie, but I did spend a great deal of it waiting for the story to get underway. It took me three quarters of the movie to realize it already had. In the movie’s defense, I decided at that point that I didn’t care, and just went along for the ride.