Matt Damon plays David Norris, a wunderkind congressman who makes an unsuccessful bid for a New York senate seat thanks to a last-minute smear campaign, and meets a wedding-crashing modern dancer, Elise (Emily Blunt), in the event centre men's room on election night.
However, on the first day of his new job, he comes upon a series of fedora-wearing suits performing a mysterious head-scanning procedure upon one of his coworkers, and they explain themselves to be from a secret organization called the Adjustment Bureau, and threaten to lobotomize him if he reveals their presence.
They claim to be a group that has existed since the dawn of humanity, who through seemingly supernatural mechanisms effect small course-corrections that impact the outcome of events, taking credit for the highest points of (western) human history (the peak of the Roman civilization, the Renaissance), and attributing the greatest failures (the Dark Ages, the Great Depression, the Holocaust) to times when they stepped away, allowing man to proceed unfettered.
Furthermore, the course-corrections are made according to a mysterious plan to which all bureau members have guides, and which experiences ongoing revisions and updates from an ever-unseen figure known as “The Chairman.”
The rest of the film concerns Norris' attempts to thwart the Bureau's plans to keep him from Elise, who they attest he only met as a result of a failed adjustment, and a relationship with whom will keep him from fulfilling his Chairman-planned role as a prominent political leader.
There is no attempt made to artfully disguise the philosophical and religious overtones with reference to free will and determinism, as well those of control from a higher power, to the point where they are made embarrassingly obvious.
Moreover, the film does little more than put the aforementioned notions before us, as the lack of reality and grace with which the premise is presented occludes the possibility of a broader interpretation of these issues – answers to the questions raised – being recovered from the film.
However, in spite of its relative absence of artistic elegance, I feel I must forgive the film, as it does not let the lack of cohesion in the deployment of its story keep it from creating some fun visuals and memorable moments.
The Bureau members are able to transport themselves across any distance using public doors (and their magical hats), making for some innovative chase sequences, and the mystery combined with bureaucratic majesty with which they proceed keeps the film exciting.
Having said this, it is bizarre that Norris accepts the existence of the Bureau so flatly, considering it's never given much of a convincing explanation. On this front, the film may have benefited from a little more by way of secrets and suspicion from Norris' perspective.
Matt Damon's performance is typically Matt Damon-y, not surprising nor inspiring in this outing, and though the utterly typical romance component is not given much of the running time, it remains charming, thanks mostly to the lively and enchanting Emily Blunt.
This is no daring philosophical treatise, nor is it groundbreaking cinematic work, but if you can overlook its flaws, as I recommend you do, you'll come away with a few scenes that will stick with you more than three quarters of the movies you'll see this year.