I'd avoided anything to do with Matt Damon ever since I loathed the movie Dogma back at the turn of the century. In fact, I never had any interest in him or in any film he was in even before that. So it was largely because the weather was forecast to be nasty (precluding any outside activities) and because I had been deprived of my movie fix the week before (when Jane Eyre was released only in New York and L.A.) that I agreed to go to the movies to see The Adjustment Bureau. (It was either that or Battle: L.A., and I was NOT going to see a movie that some idiot reviewer on IMDb called "Even better than Skyline!")
David Norris, (Damon) a young politician whose goals are his life, meets a wedding-crashing ballerina Elise (Emily Blunt) in a men's room where she is hiding from security guards, and he is practicing a concession speech aloud after a disastrous run for Senate office. She is more real to him than anything he has experienced in his life, and he draws the impulsive young woman to him inexplicably, and that weird chance changes the way they think about everything, especially about each other.
They meet again, by another odd chance, and now they have time to learn each other's names, talk about how they missed each other in the months that had passed. They look into each other's eyes and see the face of love.
But Love is not what is meant to be. Enter the Adjustment Bureau, who are charged with keeping humanity on path in The Plan. Love between David and Elise is NOT in The Plan, so the agents of the Bureau are determined to keep the two far, far apart.
This was undoubtedly one of the sweetest films I've seen in many years. It was exciting, it was unexpected, it was built to hold together like a fine stone wall. Damon and Blunt were amazingly appealing together, and the cinematography was beautiful.
The Adjustment agents themselves were also entertaining. Not human, not divine, not infallible, not always nice, they were all working guys, getting the job done, meeting the deadlines, having their agenda screwed up by David's overreaching love for Elise.
I'm certain that I will watch this film multiple times, though it's unlikely that I will buy the DVD.
There are a lot of things that have to come together to make a good movie -- an interesting story, a good telling of that story, some good acting, and some technical expertise in the nuts and bolts of filmmaking are a few of the things that come to mind. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is example of an effort where there was excellence in every aspect: a great story, told exquisitely, fine performances, and outstanding attention to every aspect of movie making, from set design to dazzlingly beautiful special effects.
Then there are movies that might be a little weak in one area, but make up for it in other ways. The Star Wars movies were like that. Clever ideas for sure, but face it, the writing was a bit weak. With all of Lucas' money, you'd think he could have hired a few writers to flesh out the story. Still, if the writing was a little lacking, the technical aspects of the films tended to be beyond spectacular, and therefore they were good films.
Then there are movies that lack a decent story, are terribly written, would have been better served with cardboard cut outs on sticks than by the cast employed, and seem to have been made for the sole purpose of irritating people. Skyline comes to mind, but there are others in this category, like The Expendables.
I mention this last group only because I feel honor bound to remind you to never, ever go see those movies.
The Adjustment Bureau reminds me a bit of It's a Wonderful Life, the 1946 Frank Capra/Jimmy Stewart holiday classic. Both movies treat the idea of what might happen if it was possible to tamper with fate. Both movies treat the idea that all things happen for a purpose, and that love is of paramount importance. Both movies are also based on stories that are clever, but not very substantive. In each case, these stories could have made for shallow, silly movies. But with legendary director Frank Capra and a strong cast led by Jimmy Stewart, It's a Wonderful Life became a classic that works as well today as it did over sixty years ago. I don't necessarily see The Adjustment Bureau becoming that kind of classic, however it is a fun, entertaining love story that works by virtue of good writing, good directing and strong performances by the two leads, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt as the star-crossed lovers. The story never lags, there's a good mix of humor and pathos, and while you're pretty sure you know how it ends, there's enough suspense to keep it interesting right to the very end.
And just as a topper, it is a decent movie -- a minimum amount of foul language, implied but not explicit lovemaking, and good good guys. Even the "bad guy" is simply a good guy with the reputation of getting the job done at all costs.
So if you've got some time on your hands from not watching Skyline and need a movie to go see, The Adjustment Bureau would be an entertaining option for you.