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The Adjustment Bureau (***)
directed by George Nolfi
written by George Nolfi, from an idea in a short story by Philip K. Dick
Adjustment Team appeared in Orbit Science Fiction
Principal Cast
Matt Damon -- David Norris
Emily Blunt -- Elise Sellas
Anthony Mackie -- Harry Mitchell
John Slattery -- Richardson
Michael Kelly -- Charlie Traynor
Terence Stamp -- Thompson
Anthony Ruivivar -- McCrady
Fabrizio Brienza -- Miller
Ratings
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

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The Adjustment Bureau The Adjustment Bureau is about that old chestnut, predestination vs. free will, but it is fast and smart and a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon. It is also about the ever popular idea that every man and every woman have one true love, something I respond to as strongly as the next man, despite never having seen it in real life.

The Philip K. Dick short story, "Adjustment Team," appeared in Orbit Science Fiction, a 50s sf magazine that lasted only five issues. All the movie takes from the story is the idea. An organization -- possibly God, possibly super-scientific -- adjusts reality for our own good. One of the adjusters falls asleep on the job, and a human being discovers what is going on. The story and the movie have no other common elements.

There is a subtext in the short story that is absent from the film. Dick clearly drew heavily on his experiences with drugs when he wrote the story, and the story feels a lot like a bad LSD trip. The story hints that, since our everyday experiences may all be an illusion, paranoia may be the only right way to think.

The film, on the other hand, is crisply surrealistic. It never suggests that anything we see on the screen might be a hallucination or that "reality" might need to be put in quotes. In the film, the Adjustment Bureau is a real organization changing a real world.

The film works out the science fiction details -- the ever-changing charts, the doors, the hats -- better than Dick's short story does. Of particular interest in the film is a conversation in which the Roman Empire is mentioned. I'll let you enjoy that conversation when you watch the movie; no spoilers here. But the short story generates a frission that the film does not. I was entertained by the film, but Dick's story made my skin tingle.

Copyright © 2011 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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