Friday, April 8, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Adjustment Bureau

"The Adjustment Bureau" is the latest film adaptation of a story from the late Sci-fi mastermind Philip K. Dick.
This one stars Matt Damon as a fresh faced young and upcoming candidate for the New York Senate. As David Norris, Damon is charming, earnest and glib with the face of a GQ model. Although no bruiser, we learn that he  has a bit of a hot temper. Norris is notorious for starting bar fights. 
No. His mind does not get recalled into the body of Russell Crowe or Mel Gibson. That is perhaps another film project yet to be remembered or forgotten.
Norris has dreams of "changing" America and he is way ahead in the polls. The crowd frequently shouts out exclamations of love and support and Norris shouts out "I love you both!" It seems like Norris is a shoe- in. In a montage, he shares the spotlight with everyone from James Carville to John Stewart on "The Daily Show". He is a golden boy with the charisma of Clinton or Obama. 
Then the papers arrive.  Norris' lead suddenly plummets because of discovered evidence of a college "mooning" video. This combined with his over-confident incidents of barfights and partying, have soured the voters.
He is forced to concede to his opponent.
In the men's bathroom of all places, he meets a magnetic, bubbly dancer Elise (Emily blunt). Norris is love struck; he gives a groundbreaking concession speech about his plans to abandon political posturing.
Back in his office, his secretary is inexplicably frozen in place. There are armored men in riot gear inside the lobby scanning his advisor's body with a kind of laser. Norris runs frantically like Harold Lloyd in a 21st century Mack Sennett comedy. But the guards catch him. He wakes up in a warehouse.
Although this is not "Reservoir Dogs", the circumstance is no less severe. Men in gray flannel suits appear with hats to match. They do indeed seem from a different era, echoing Cary Grant from  "North by Northwest." There will be no suave parries this time however. The men mean business. Elise is not part of "the plan" and she is not to be seen again. Further, if Norris tells anyone of  what he saw, he will be "reset"--- his personality erased. 
Then Our Man Matt springs into action. Love Must Conquer All.
Norris gets help from a sympathetic Man with a Hat (Anthony Mackie) who shows him how to conduct himself against The Men.
Damon must wear a 1950's style hat to travel quickly unseen. Could this be the director's jab at Damon's fellow contemporary Leonardo DiCaprio in "Reservation Road"? 
The best parts of "The Adjustment Bureau" are the ones in which Damon is pursued up, down and sideways through steps, staircases and corridors seemingly infinite. This film is  more vivid than "Inception" and conveyed with a genuine jarring sense of an actual dream with real heart. Like a Dali painting, the most surprise comes from the illogical pairing of things.  The film works best as a paranoid fantasia akin to Escher or Alice rather than a fight against The System that has been  retold ad nauseam in other movies. Here the settings are emboldened with a fresh sense of fear and panic. It is in the step of The Men, the rise of  stairs and the tilt of a hat.

There is one startling scene when Norris is trapped with Elise and the armored men stand by as impotent centurions. Never has the military and an amorous kiss been so eerily juxtaposed. 
 You will never see a hat in the same way again.
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