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The Adjustment Bureau

Year: 2011
Studio: Universal
Director: George Nolfi
Producer: George Nolfi
Writer: George Nolfi/Philip K Dick
Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery

There's never been a more misrepresented writer in Hollywood. From the showy sci-fi of Minority Report to the action movie thrills of Total Recall , Philip K Dick's work has been the basis for a large number of movies he'd probably hate.

The closest anyone's come to his original vision is still Linklater's A Scanner Darkly, and I couldn't help thinking he'd find The Adjustment Bureau somewhere around the halfway mark. He was rarely interested in love stories and chase sequences, but at least it didn't morph into the silver-door sci-fi of Paycheck.

The core of his idea forms the backbone of the plot as a group of meta-sixties grey flannel-style management types make sure the world runs according to The Plan. They're not referred to as angels, nor their boss (The Chairman) as God, although the assumption is implicit as they watch over humanity, making adjustments as history rolls on to make sure the world doesn't go off its predetermined plan.

But Matt Damon as Senatorial hopeful David Norris becomes the Man With Everything To Lose when he meets pretty dancer Elise (Blunt) and can't get her out of his mind. She drifts out of his life just as quickly and that's the way it was supposed to be – sympathetic adjustment bureaucrat Harry (Mackie) was even there to make sure events transpired that kept them from meeting again (but, in one of the films silliest plot turns – and I'd be interested to see if it was in Dick's story – Harry is a bit overworked, falls asleep on a park bench and misses the appointment to redirect history).

So David finds Elise again and is determined not to let her go. The Bureau has no choice but to move in and come clean, telling Norris who they are and why he and Elise can never be. They even bring in hardball upper level exec Thompson (Stamp) to make sure he stays on the straight and narrow.

But Norris goes on the run – aided eventually by Harry – to stay with Elise, and a chase through the Bureau's strange world takes places where he learns arcane laws like how to open doors a certain way and why it's important to wear a hat, teleporting himself across the city with Adjustment agents hot on the trail.

It ends with a love conquers all motif I'm sure Dick would have gagged at, but there isn't a sliding door retinal scanner or robotic assembly line anywhere in sight, and Damon and Blunt's chemistry and intensity keeps it all firmly on the ground. I think Dick – like most of us – would smile begrudgingly a few times.

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