By Pat Holohan
"The Adjustment Bureau" tries to be about a lot more than men running through doors in New York City in suits and fedoras. It takes on the idea of free will, determining just what true love can overcome, with plenty of hastily explained science fiction. It tries to mess with the audience's head without knowing exactly what buttons to push, so it pushes every button at once and hopes for the best, ultimately leading to disappointment.
Damon stars as David Norris, a New York Congressman running for a Senate seat. Though he loses the campaign, he meets Elise (Emily Blunt), a weirdly quirky woman who apparently crashes weddings by herself and inspires David to give an honest speech that will make him the frontrunner in any future election. Damon soon finds out that, according to the men of the Adjustment Bureau, the two are never supposed to see each other again because it's not part of "the plan," and neither of them would reach their full potential in their respective careers, where it's implied Damon would become the U.S president.
Naturally, Damon immediately falls in love with her and needs to see her no matter what. The Bureau tries to keep them apart by walking through doors (a random bathroom connects to the bullpen in Yankee Stadium) in New York through the use of magic fedoras (seriously). They tell Damon that humans are without free will and imply that the Bureau is led directly by God.
The question of free will seems interesting at first, but it quickly becomes apparent that this idea won't go anywhere. As the men in hats tell Damon he has no power, he continually defies and surprises them simply by running away from them very quickly and asking simple questions that baffle the Bureau. Despite frequent warnings of the Bureau's omnipotence, Damon knocks Bureau members out with a single punch to the face several times, and the one Bureau member sympathetic to Damon, Harry (Anthony Mackie), laughingly acknowledges that yes, knocking the Bureau members' hats off would stop them from continuing to walk through magic doors.
The strength of the Bureau grows and shrinks rapidly to fit exactly what the plot needs at the moment. Damon and Mackie need a private moment to talk and realize the Bureau's powers don't work around water, so they stay in the sewer. Need to find information when the Bureau magically shuts off the Internet and phone service? The Bureau is baffled as to how to stop Damon from literally just asking bystanders how to get to a certain place.
Both Damon and Blunt suffer serious character derailment throughout the film. Damon's character is consistently described as impulsive and immature, despite being a successful politician who looks out for his friends and is willing to do anything to be with the woman he loves. Blunt's character is originally portrayed as a strong woman until the end of the movie when she's about to marry another man, whom it's obvious to everyone, she does not love. She runs away with Damon, though he had twice abandoned her earlier (not his fault, but she doesn't know that), right after he punches a Bureau member out without explaining why.
The film constantly asks whether it's better to be alone and reach one's full potential or to settle into a happy existence with a soul mate. In the end, it decides on neither, implying that the characters are so special, their love so great, that they can have both. It finishes with the unsatisfying cliché of love conquering all for no particular reason.