Skip to main content

The Adjustment Bureau Review

Adjustment Bureau ReviewI really enjoyed The Adjustment Bureau, and thankfully I was fortunate enough to see it before the PR machine kicked into high gear and ads for the movie began to appear on every channel, all the time. The advertising won’t make the movie better or worse, but people might go in expecting one thing and leave after seeing something totally different.

The Adjustment Bureau is a love story with a supernatural twist. Despite the commercials using “that guy” for the voice overs on the commercials—you know the guy, the one the makes everything sound ominous and threatening like the world is about to explode or something equally dramatic—the movie is a sweet and engaging story about two people that were meant for each other, and they just happen to frame their love in a supernatural world they accidentally stumble into. It might not win over hard core sci-fi fans, but it should offer the vast majority of audiences a movie that will entertain. The Adjustment Bureau will fool a few people because of the advertising campaign that makes the film appear to be a thriller. It really isn’t, but it is still a fine movie with an original backdrop, and one worth seeing.

Adjust Your Expectations

David Norris (Matt Damon) is going places. He is a politician with the rare gift of being able to connect with people while still being able to remain true to himself. Following a Congressional loss, Norris is doubting himself and wondering what he should do next, when a chance meeting with a girl named Elise (Emily Blunt) inspires him to give a concession speech that all but guarantees that he will have another shot at office. Then things get complicated.

Elise disappear, and David is left to wonder if he will ever see her again. He obviously wants to, but a mysterious group called the Adjustment Bureau is working to ensure that he doesn’t  in order to fulfill the mysterious “plan”. A mishap brings Norris and Elise together again, despite the best efforts of the supernatural Adjustment Bureau, and the pair’s mutual attraction puts everything at risk.

Norris stumbles upon the secret of the Adjustment Bureau, and he is given a choice. He can listen to the Bureau and go on to great things, or be with Elise and ruin both their futures.

Adjustment Bureau
Image used with permission by copyright holder

To go into detail on what the Adjustment Bureau is would be to ruin the surprise, although to be fair, the mystery of it isn’t really a priority for the film. It is explained early on in order to raise the stakes. The Adjustment Bureau is a love story about a man and a woman who meet, and forces conspire to keep them apart. Everything else is details.

The love story is at the forefront of this film, and it works. The supernatural side simply makes the twists seem original, rather than turning the film into something that will be defined by the sci-fi aspect. That side is present, but it is the framework to the plot, not the Defining characteristic of it. The biggest misconception about this film from the trailers is that it is “dark”.  It isn’t, far from it.  If anything it is a film about hope and love. Just ignore the voice over guy trying to scare you.

Chemistry Beats Fate

The Adjustment Bureau is acted well enough that you almost take the skills of the cast for granted. Movies like these don’t usually win awards, but a bad cast would have turned the plot into a mess. The characters are written well enough that you will believe their circumstances (for the most part), and Damon and Blunt are especially good together as David and Elise. Go watch Ioan Gruffud’s Rzzie-worthy performance in Sanctum which almost single handedly turned an average movie into an awful one, and you will really be able to appreciate the cast of The Adjustment Bureau. Damon turns in another solid performance as a likable guy you want to root for, and Blunt matches him step for step. Together they make it look so easy that despite their fame, you will both buy into their respective roles, and what more can you ask of an actor and actress?

While Damon and Blunt carry the film’s love story, John Slattery (Mad Men, Iron Man 2) and Terrance Stamp (Valkyrie, The Limey) both breathe life into the mysterious Adjustment Bureau, giving personality to the antagonists without ever coming across as evil or heavy handed. They help propel the plot, and while you can’t root for them because of their actions, you understand them. But the real show stealer of the movie is Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Night Catches Us) as Harry Mitchell, a member of the Adjustment Bureau that sympathizes with David and Elise. Mackie continues to take on difficult roles that have garnered him critical acclaim, and he is just one performance away from A-list superstardom.

Adjustment Bureau
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In his debut as a director, George Nolfi has equated himself well, and should earn a fair amount of respect and opportunity from Hollywood. It helps that his first feature film stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt and not Lorenzo Lamas and Vanessa Williams, but Nolfi does a fine job with the well crafted (and expensive) tools at his disposal.

The biggest issue most will have with this movie is their own notions of what it is when they go in.  In technical terms, the movie is well handled, and for a first time director, Nolfi gets strong performances out of both Blunt and Damon. The pair ooze chemistry, and there are a few parts that may seem odd–especially the jumps in time that don’t seem to have any effect on the intensity of the relationship–but the fact that it works is credit to the chemistry of the cast.


The Adjustment Bureau will alienate some based on the advertising that makes it appear as if it is the second coming of The Matrix, where in truth it is closer to It’s a Wonderful Life. Going into too much detail about the mystery of what the Adjustment Bureau is would take away from part of the surprise of the movie. The supernatural aspect is more an original way to frame the love story than the focus of the film.

Damon and Blunt both turn in solid performances, which is vital in a love story that needs to compete against supernatural aspects. It would be easy to have made the love story the backdrop for the magical nature of The Adjustment Bureau, but that would have made for a slightly superficial film with a weak buildup and an unsatisfying climax. By the end you are left with just a cursory understanding of what the mysterious Adjustment Bureau is, but that doesn’t matter, as it turns out that it isn’t really the crux of the movie.

If you are looking for a romance with a twist, then look no further than The Adjustment Bureau. In terms of quality, this film is among the best of the year so far. That might not sound like a ringing endorsement since the year is still young, but The Adjustment Bureau offers a satisfying love story that is both charming and well executed, plus it has that rare cross appeal which will satisfy those looking for a date movie, as well as those looking for a movie will thriller aspects. Sci-fi purists might feel a bit underwhelmed at the lack of focus on the Bureau, but most audiences will leave the theater smiling at a well told and original love story.


A well acted and executed love story.  Solid effects convey a sense of supernatural involvement. An original love story.


The supernatural aspect is secondary to the love story, which will surprise some. The Adjustment Bureau itself isn’t explored as much as some might hope.

Editors' Recommendations

Ryan Fleming
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Ryan Fleming is the Gaming and Cinema Editor for Digital Trends. He joined the DT staff in 2009 after spending time covering…
The best documentaries on Netflix right now
A cheetah rests on a branch in a scene from Netflix's Predators.

Some genres on Netflix are woefully underserved. But when it comes to documentaries, Netflix has so many to choose from that it's difficult to find the newest shows and movies in this category. They all kind of blend together due to Netflix's algorithm, especially if you simply type in "documentary."

So you really have to know what you're looking for ahead of time. That's why it's always a good idea to check out our list of what's new on Netflix every month. ANd for an even deeper dive, check out our latest update for the best documentaries on Netflix, which include the nature documentary Predators, a sports documentary about David Beckham, the true crime miniseries How To Be a Mob Boss, and Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul, which has a title that sums up its subject pretty well. Beyond these new additions, you'll find something for everyone who wants to expand their horizons about the world we live in, and beyond.
We’ve also rounded up the best documentaries on Amazon Prime Video and the best documentaries on Hulu if Netflix doesn’t have what you’re looking for.

Read more
8 most surprising TV show cancellations of 2023
Jon Stewart talking passionately with guests in a scene from The Problem with Jon Stewart.

Some shows run their course and come to a natural end. Among the ones that fell into that category this year are Sex Education, Doom Patrol, and Reservation Dogs. Other shows are canceled to no one’s surprise. The most notable of those shows this year is The Idol, which was marred with controversy from the get-go. Sometimes, shows are canceled and revived due to fan pushback, like Warrior Nun, which was canceled in December 2022 after two seasons, but will be brought back as a film trilogy.

It really catches fans off guard when a show cancellation happens even when the series is well received and hasn't had the chance to resolve its stories. The reasons run the gamut, from low viewership to high production costs and other issues behind the scenes. This year, a few shows may have become victims of the writer’s strike. Whatever the case, these eight show cancellations in 2023 were surprising. Interestingly, while Netflix is notorious for prematurely canceling shows fans love, none of the shows on this list are from that streaming service.
The Mysterious Benedict Society (2021-2022)

Read more
10 best sci-fi TV characters ever, ranked
An older Picard looks concerned in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

While you may not think of genre storytelling as the most fertile ground for developing fascinating, complex characters, sci-fi TV proves the two don't have to be mutually exclusive. Over the long history of sci-fi on television, we've gotten a number of hugely compelling characters who have grown and changed over the course of seasons and years.

Whether these characters are human, alien, or something else entirely, each one of them has compelled us, and sometimes, they've even managed to worm their way into our hearts forever.
10. Kerr Avon (Blake's 7)

Read more