‘Adjustment Bureau’ review: Philip K. Dick with a difference

March 04, 2011 | 11:13 a.m.

Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan says “The Adjustment Bureau” has a date with destiny…

Terence Stamp and Matt Damon in "The Adjustment Bureau" (Universal Pictures)

Once neglected, now lionized, the legendary science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick speaks more to our time than he ever did to his own. Starting with 1982′s “Blade Runner” and including “Total Recall” and “Minority Report,” close to a dozen features based on Dick’s work have generated more than $1 billion in revenue. Now “The Adjustment Bureau” is poised to add to that total.

What makes Dick so appealing to our wary, distrustful state of mind is, in novelist Jonathan Lethem’s words, his “remarkably personal vision of paranoia and dislocation.” Never a great prose stylist, Dick had a visionary’s gift for mind-bending ideas about the nature of reality, a gift “Adjustment Bureau” and its notion of unseen forces stage-managing our lives embraces.

This film, however, is Dick with a difference. Though the writer is not usually considered one of the world’s great romantics, “Adjustment Bureau” writer-director George Nolfi has taken little more than the core concept from one of Dick’s short stories and spun it into an “Is love stronger than fate?” plot with enough romantic interest to attract the likes of Matt Damon and Emily Blunt to the leading roles.

What results, against some odds, is an intriguing entertainment. “Adjustment Bureau’s” central concept is certainly ingenious, but the details are a little wonky and don’t stand up to too much scrutiny. Although the story’s implausible pulp roots are never far away, its stronger aspects are so well sold by a potent cast (including Anthony Mackie and an especially forceful Terence Stamp) that, though it is a near thing, this is finally something we don’t want to stop watching…

THERE’S MORE, READ THE REST

– Kenneth Turan

“Adjustment Bureau” took a strange path to screen

Anthony Mackie takes “Adjustment” path

Ridley Scott: “Blade Runner” echoes in special way

Ridley Scott: I came to sci-fi through backdoor

PART 1: Philip K. Dick in O.C., a stranger in a strange land

PART 2: Philip K. Dick at work in John Birch territory

PART 3: Philip K. Dick, an uneasy spy in ’70s suburbia

PART 4: Philip K. Dick finds God and madness on the doorstep

PART 5: Philip K. Dick scans the darkness of O.C.

PART 6: Philip K. Dick and the maze of death

Comments


10 Responses to ‘Adjustment Bureau’ review: Philip K. Dick with a difference

  1. Orci Kurtzman says:

    You can get this same kind of bizarre love story and told in a very entertaining manner with a great cast each week on FRINGE, a sci-fi series on FOX TV. Even down to the weird guys in hats and suits observing and messing with time.

  2. derinum says:

    Philip K. Dick is a very savvy write but I'll take dark city any day. that said i havent seen this

  3. Galina Walia says:

    Unfortunately nothing special about this movie… another ordinary love story re-told in a contemporary way …not without help from "Chairman" and a great cast…movie had potential but got "killed" by cheeeeesy moments.Good performances by Matt Damon & Emily Blunt . Wait for the DVD!

  4. DarthJedi says:

    Good movie. Very enjoyable. But the concept for the movie and even a few lines were lifted from an episode of the 90's version Twilight Zone. The episode "A Matter of Minutes" was about a couple that was stuck in between time and blue people were constructing time. The foreman "Adolph Caesar"
    explained how each minute is constructed before you experience it and the blue people were responsible for the construction. They sometimes get things wrong; that's why your keys sometimes are not where you think you placed them and so on……… It was a really good episode and for years I have blamed the blue people for every missing or missed placed item.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0734721/

    • TommyV says:

      Sounds like a cool Twilight Zone episode. But the movie concept was not taken from the Zone episode. The movie concept is based on Dick's 1956 short story, so if there was any "lifting" involved (not saying that there was), then the Zone episode lifted it from Dick's original "Adjustment Team" story.

  5. Guy says:

    Darth Jedi you obviously just posted that without actually reading this article, considering it's based on a Philip K. Dick story and you're talking about how it's ripped off from a Twilight Zone episode from the 90s.

  6. possum404 says:

    Darthjedi–not only did Guy point out your obvious issues with time, but the Twilight Zone ep you mentioned had a plot that was, in pretty much every way, NOTHING LIKE this movie. Fail.

  7. Adam says:

    Watch Time Bandits!!!!!!!

  8. Troy says:

    Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. The most recent theories on multiple "universes" allows for a truly infinite Universe in which there are many "earths" experiencing all possible versions of events.
    (See Brian Greene's The Hidden Reality). On page 309 are nine versions of an infinite Universe
    which are all proposed by well known serious scientists. As I watched the "Adjustment Bureau", I could not help but invision a group who could observe several versions of Earth as they evolved and which might try to "optimize" in some way the events that occurred in the different versions.
    Philip K. Dick was indeed ahead of his time.

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