Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Video review: "The Adjustment Bureau"

"The Adjustment Bureau" is Existentialism Lite. It's less a meditation on free will than a science fiction potboiler-slash-romance.

Still, it's an entertaining thrill ride with intellectual pretensions that are never explored too deeply.

Based on a story by Philip K. Dick -- whose writings have inspired other sci-fi movies like "Minority Report" and "Blade Runner" -- "Bureau" focuses on David Norris, an ambitious young politician ably played by Matt Damon. David is a politician from New York who's about to run for the U.S. Senate when he stumbles upon the secret of the Adjustment Bureau.

It seems free will is not actually so free. Cosmic do-gooders intervene in human events to nudge them back toward a predetermined path favored by an unknown entity called The Chairman. Using the ability to stop time and gizmos to zap brains, the Bureau's "case workers" -- think angels in 1950s fedora hats -- can actually change people's minds, and make them think it was their choice all along.

In David's case, they want him to abandon a budding romance with dancer Elise (Emily Blunt) that is inexplicably dangerous to the Chairman's designs. Because he discovers their secret, he's offered a chance to follow the path laid before him. He refuses, and spends the rest of the movie on the run from the celestial bureaucracy.

What the film lacks in thematic depths, it makes up for in sheer entertainment value: It's a trippy good time.

Video goodies are rather good, and you don't have to pay top price for the Blu-ray version to get a lot of extras.

The DVD comes with a feature-length commentary track by director/writer George Nolfi, deleted/extended scenes and three featurettes. One is a making-of documentary that looks at how the filmmakers shot the chase through New York's in-between spaces, while the other two focus on Damon and Blunt's respective preparation for their roles.

Upgrade to the Blu-ray, and you add "Labyrinth of Doors," an interactive map of the Big Apple with videos linked to various locations.

Movie:  3 stars out of four
Extras: 3 stars

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