Damon, Blunt give audience reason to root for their reunion

March 15, 2011

Ever since “Blade Runner” was finally embraced for the classic that it is (it was initially a box-office bomb that was met with lukewarm reviews), author Phillip K. Dick has been the go-to guy for science fiction films.

And while budgets have ranged in size (“Minority Report” and “Total Recall” on down to “Screamers” and “Imposter”), the majority have benefited from the strength of their source.

The latest, “The Adjustment Bureau,” is taken from his short story “The Adjustment Team,” and continues to demonstrate the author’s strengths, even in the face of pedestrian filmmaking.

Matt Damon stars as David Norris, a hot-shot politician who is currently suffering a few career setbacks. After a particularly humbling press conference, he encounters Elise Sellas (played by Emily Blunt) in perhaps the film’s sharpest scene, which features more chemistry than a science lab.

Flash forward three months, and the star-crossed lovers meet again. Only this time, their random meeting was specifically designed to not happen by a shadowy organization that rules the universe (or at least New York City) and apparently requires its members to dress like 1940s pulp-novel detectives.  But as we learn from Norris’ past, he’s prone to rather impulsive behavior and refuses to accept that his love is not meant to be.

Now, let me state that this may sound like some incredibly lame love-conquers-all romance where lovers from separate eras leave letters in some time-warped mailbox to one another, and it dances dangerously close to parody.

But “Adjustment Bureau” is pulled from the brink by dedicated performances from its leads and their understanding of the story on which the film is based.

The problem lies with writer/director George Norfi. He may have punched up the third “Bourne” flick as a writer, but he seems unable to squeeze the intensity out of the source material to give “Bureau” the urgency it needs during the final act. The world of the ruling fedora-sporting ciphers could have been one of Matrix-like mysticism, but it is rendered as exciting as underground municipal plumbing.

Fortunately, Damon and Blunt realize the stakes and fully invest in their roles. There is genuine confusion and hurt in their eyes when their relationship is forcibly sequestered. And they both give the audience a reason to root for their reunion.

They, along with author Philip K. Dick, are the reason for “The Adjustment Bureau’s” success, with Damon and Blunt demonstrating that while true love may not rule all, it can at the very least overcome static direction.