David Norris (Matt Damon) is running for the position of Senator of New York, and despite being younger than his more experienced rival, he has a knack of saying the right things and enjoys a huge amount of support from the younger voters. He is quite a few points ahead in the polls and it looks to be a landslide in the making until an embarrassing photograph from his past appears in the newspaper, leaving him humiliated and seeing his advantage diminished. But on the night of the election, he meets someone...
The Adjustment Bureau was one of many sci-fi thrillers drawn from the writings of cult author Philip K. Dick, many of which tended to prompt complaints from his fans that the filmmakers had failed to capture the essence of the text. This, however, took the short story and opened it out into a romance, so that Damon could sort of get into a relationship with dancer Elise (Emily Blunt) which found impediments from a curious source: the Bureau of the title. They are Godlike figures who manufacture the events of the world, and have big plans for David.
Not that he believes his political career is going anywhere after his disappointment at the elections, though he does give a self-effacing, off the cuff speech which endears him to the American public just as it looks as if he will be defeated. However, he's more interested in that moment in meeting with Elise, who he encountered in the men's room when she was hiding in one of the stalls, and although director-writer-producer George Nolfi, here making his debut at the helm after a few successful scripts, tends to make her a little too contrived in her supposedly refreshing kookiness, there was enough chemistry between Damon and Blunt to make us like them.
Or at least wish to see them together, which the Bureau do not want to happen, and go out of their way to stop because their potential union does not marry with what they want to occur later in both their lives - there's the underexplored possibility their love may put the world in danger. It seems this orchestration of fate is like a straitjacket on all of us, a lightly anti-deity theme which does cop out by the end when the inevitable (in a Hollywood movie, anyway) comes to pass, but has a nice line in an examination of "the future is unwritten" style of plotting, going out of its way to ensure that is true for the lead characters. In the meantime, there's a lot of running in and out of doors.
This is the film's best special effect, where the Bureau have the ability to walk through one door and end up in a completely dfifferent location to the one us mere mortals would: the CGI and deft editing are not flashy, but their visual subtlety is one of its strengths. Amusingly, the agents of circumstance can only do this while wearing a hat, an item of eccentricity in a film which could have done with more, by way of offering the production a winning personality while you might wish they'd emphasised the craziness of the premise and details more for the sense of wonder it could have profited from. As it was, a lot of the time we were concentrating on the romantic angle, which went through the "just find that one person right for you" narrative common to many a movie on this subject. Whether that was as much a fantasy as the rest of this was up to the viewer, but there was nothing heavyhanded here, so if it wasn't quite as deep as it could have been, it meant well. Music by Thomas Newman.