The Adjustment Bureau / Limitless

It seems that March held an unexpected bonanza of science-fictional films.  I have been making something of an effort to see as many as I can, but as my time is limited I have been concentrating on movies that have a degree of positive buzz.  Thankfully,  the two I’ve seen have not let me down.

The Adjustment Bureau

This Matt Damon vehicle is yet another loose Hollywood adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story (“Adjustment Team”).  Not having read the original story, I have no idea how accurate this adaptation is, so my impression of The Adjustment Bureau is solely based on the movie itself.

That impression is favourable.  The cast was surprisingly solid, and while there were plenty of chase sequences and big reveals, the pacing of the movie was surprisingly thoughtful and reflective.  The basic premise—which I think is apparent from the trailers—is that political aspirant David Norris (Damon) falls for a girl and mysterious forces try to keep them apart.

If that plot sounds rather simple, well, it is.  But the movie tries to explore the whole fate-versus-freewill debate, and much of the action develops out of the main characters taking action for themselves.  They actually have clear reasons for acting as they do, and it is an intensely personal story despite all the bigger questions raised by the film.

My only complaint about the film is with the ending, which seemed to arrive rather abruptly and quite possibly undermined the thematic argument of the movie.  While it tied up the plot, it didn’t really answer any questions or give us any sense of what lay in store for the characters. (I will grant that the last point may have been deliberate, given the nature of the movie, but it was still mildly unsatisfying.)

Still, I very much enjoyed this movie.  While it was no Inception in terms of complexity or quality, it was one of the more enjoyable and thoughtful SF movies I’ve seen recently, and I wish more movies were out there like it.  Good stuff.

Limitless

I had some trepidation going in to Limitless, as I hadn’t heard much about it before its release, and I knew its star Bradley Cooper more for his roles in comedies than serious action or SF films.  But it got some decent reviews from SF outlets, and did some solid box-office, so I gave it a shot.

In the movie, Eddie Morra (Cooper) is a struggling writer who takes a drug that enhances his intelligence to stratospheric heights but only lasts for a day.  The plot follows what happens to his accelerated self as he tries to take advantage of his new-found capabilities.

I thought this movie did not explore the notion of enhanced intelligence as well as it could have.  There are threads in that direction, but they get subordinated to the plot-level action and suspense.  However, the narrative style of the film was unconventional for an SF movie, and there were some very interesting visuals used in showing how the drug affected Eddie’s mind and perception of the world around him.

Despite the lack of depth, the movie was entertaining.  While the outcome was somewhat predictable, there were surprises on how we got there, and it made for a satisfying movie.  While I did not personally enjoy it quite so much as The Adjustment Bureau, I can certainly see that other people might like it more.  And, technically speaking, Limitless was the more rigorously science-fictional of the two movies.

Overall, I think my two choices for movies so far this month were good ones.