Bottom Line: Great premise, and very engaging, but everything else is a disappointment.
Directed by: George Nolfi
Starring: Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Michael Kelly
Philip K. Dick strikes again. Now I know that when I say something like “strikes again,” it implies that he is well-known, yet I am well aware many of you are likely scratching your heads wondering, “Who is this Dick you speak of?” Maybe the name isn’t familiar, but I guarantee the other films he has been associated with are beyond merely familiar: BLADE RUNNER, a dystopian flick about the last man of the eponymous Unit who must save the world from annihilation; NEXT, about a man who can travel back in time just far enough to undo and redo his previous actions (among other things); TOTAL RECALL, about a man who is in search of his true identity as well as the reason for his memory wipeout; MINORITY REPORT, a futuristic movie about police who stop crimes before they actually take place. In short, he is often considered the most quintessential science fiction writer ever. You could argue that Asimov and Bradbury have a sufficient rationale to hold that title, as well, but unlike those two, Dick’s stories and premises remain far from clichéd and quotidian, even today. The plot he provided for last year’s THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU is no BLADE RUNNER, but it’s endlessly interesting. In this romantic action thriller (yes, it is an odd blend of genres), our two protagonists are David Norris (Matt Damon) and Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt). The former is a politician running for the New York Senate, the latter is a ballerina, and the two are trying to hide a relationship. Meanwhile, there are outside forces desiring to break the two up, tracking them down and spying on them at nearly all times.
If a premise was all there was to a film, I would have scored this one with a perfect grade. But a premise is only the muscles to the cinematic body: they hold up and support the film as much as possible. If they’re strong, great, but there has to be some skin, blood, and bones to this cinematic body, and really, the muscles can’t support anything other than themselves and the body. We could have, for example, a chick flick with the most hackneyed plot ever, but if there’s great acting and visuals, the film itself is somewhat good. It’s the same thing–or, rather, the opposite–with THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. The plot line is what makes it engaging, and that’s about it. Other than this, I’ve seen Damon in CONTAGION, HEREAFTER, TRUE GRIT, INVICTUS, the BOURNE and OCEAN’S trilogies, and THE DEPARTED; if I still need to watch further than those eleven films of his to understand that he’s a great actor, then I’ll gladly watch something of the GOOD WILL HUNTING or TALENTED MR. RIPLEY variety. Because I love the man. Of the actors that are still alive today, he ranks among Nicholson, Harris, and DiCaprio as one of my favorites. I just didn’t care for him here. It seems like forever since he ran from country to country as assassin Jason Bourne, and the word “forever” gets a new, more emphasized definition here with his portrayal as a politician. His character here seems too unambitious, unadventurous, and too much so to be the lead in an action movie. The script was also heavily flawed. It was written by George Nolfi, who has co-written two other Damon films–THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM and OCEAN’S TWELVE–as well as two others–THE SENTINEL and TIMELINE. Seeing that he has had some good experience with action films, one would expect a straightforward instance of the genre. Instead, we have a movie scripted with neat action, but killed at times by the poor, unrealistic dialogue. I give this points for being quite entertaining, if not the slightest bit more. Hey, let’s look at the glass half full: it could have been another OCEAN’S TWELVE.