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The Adjustment Bureau - The Ex-Communicator

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March 6th, 2011

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08:17 am - The Adjustment Bureau
The Adjustment Bureau is a film based on a Philip K Dick short story (which I haven't read): The Adjustment Team. It stars Matt Damon, who I really rate, and there are cameos from a bunch of American political types like Jon Stewart and Jesse Jackson. Unfortunately it is pretty weak, particularly towards the end.

There are films like No Country for Old Men or Blue Velvet where the metaphysics is implicit, seething underneath a relatively mainstream story. And then there are films like this where the metaphysics is front-loaded - other examples are Inception and The Matrix parts 2 and 3. On the whole I generally prefer my metaphysics lurking underneath the story. For one thing I think so much about reality can not be expressed in words, and so it has to be indicated obliquely. Saying things, having systems and representations, is a bit duff. Having characters describe 'the nature of reality', with reaction shots, doesn't really cut it.

This is the extreme of that case, with cinematic tricks used to present a bland glossy metaphysics. Although everything (I don't think this is a spoiler - we are in PKD territory) you have been told is a lie, and you are being manipulated by great forces which have obliterated your self and your freedom, there is little sense of dread or horror. It's all very reassuring and Episcopalian. There is a conflation of corporate, political, and religious hierarchy, and the overall feeling is anaesthetic. It's like The End of History by Fukuyama, made into an SF film. God has obliterated all human will, but it's probably for the best, and if you suck up to the authorities, you get favoured status.

I think those who liked Inception for its complexity will be disappointed by this, which is much simpler in structure, and those who prefer something more oblique and emotional will be very disappointed. I wasn't bored, but I don't think it's worth seeing really.

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:March 6th, 2011 11:52 am (UTC)
I just went and read the Wikipedia plot summary. And it does sound like the authors weren't really interested in investigating where the idea led very far at all. I suspect I'd have been quite frustrated if I saw it at the cinema.
[User Picture]
Date:March 6th, 2011 12:02 pm (UTC)
The idea that the meaninglessness of existence isn't really important enough unless a dumb boy-meets-girl plot is drafted on.
[User Picture]
Date:March 6th, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC)
Y'know, I was aware that something about that film was deeply unsatisfying (even as I enjoyed some of the visual surrealism moment-by-moment) and you've pretty much hit it. How they can take one of my favorite themes (reality as conspiracy) play it with some of my favorite actors and with at least some visual flair and have it be so blah was kind of a mystery. But its basic incuriousness about itself may be the answer.
[User Picture]
Date:March 6th, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC)
Do you know if the romantic plot is in the original story?
[User Picture]
Date:March 8th, 2011 12:46 am (UTC)
Assuming the Wikipedia article on 'Adjustment Team' is even vaguely accurate, the romance (and indeed nearly all the plot) appears to originate in the film version.

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