July 29, 2011

Justify My Netflix: The Adjustment Bureau

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

The Adjustment Bureau

Today's movie: The Adjustment Bureau, 2011 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this was a recent low-budget sci-fi thriller that I decided to randomly add to my watch list before forgetting about it forever, based loosely on a Philip K. Dick story and starring that dreamy Matt Damon, adapted and directed by the guy who gave us (sigh) the Ocean's Twelve and Bourne Ultimatum screenplays.

The reality: Um...hmm. Well, I suppose it wasn't all bad, although there always seems to be an important caveat that goes with these B-flick "adaptations" of Dick stories; that Dick actually wrote hundreds of these throwaway quickies for the pulps back in the 1950s, long before the trippy masterpieces of the '70s he's most known for, these older and shorter pieces most times consisting of nothing more than one good idea and seven pages of filler, making it easy for adapters to take that one core idea and then spin it out in any direction they want. So in this case, for example, screenwriter/director George Nolfi takes Dick's original concept (that a shadowy metaphysical organization exists that subtly changes certain details in our lives without us knowing, in order to help along important moments in history), but then expands it into a messy grander mythology full of beginner's holes in logic and an endless series of eye-rolling comprimises to better serve a three-act structure. (It's heavily implied in the film version that these are Christian angels, with God directing their actions; but then not only does God grant these angels only a limited amount of power to actually change things, necessary for plot purposes but completely inane from a logical standpoint, but even the very concept of a Christian God and angels manipulating human events breaks rule number one of Christianity, that Jesus died so that humans could have free will.) Now add the dozens of lazy sci-fi cliches seen throughout (how do you know they have supernatural powers? THEY'RE WEARING SKINNY MODERNIST SUITS!), plus the obvious fact that the production team was forced to spend the vast majority of their budget simply on hiring Damon (although admittedly, Nolfi admirably tries to make up for it with consistently gorgeous cinematography, as well as lots of clever practical effects), and it's clear that this is the definition of a true B-film that only a fanboy could love, although not that terribly bad if you happen to be this fanboy. It should be kept in mind before renting it yourself.

Worth your time? Kinda

Filed by Jason Pettus at 4:01 PM, July 29, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |