"THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU" — ★★½ — Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, John Slattery, Terence Stamp; PG-13 (strong language, some sexuality and violent imagery); in general release

The short stories of Philip K. Dick have been a gold mine for Hollywood filmmakers. From the neo-noir classic "Blade Runner" to big budget thrillers such as "Minority Report" and "Next," movie adaptations of the sci-fi author's eclectic oeuvre have run the gamut in both tone and quality.

With "The Adjustment Bureau," first-time director George Nolfi struggles and stumbles as he tries to expand the bare-bones premise of Dick's original story into a cohesive feature-length film. But its many flaws notwithstanding, "The Adjustment Bureau" departs from its source material and becomes, at its best, a refreshingly heartfelt sci-fi romance that showcases its two stars, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.

Without revealing too much, the plot focuses on young political hopeful David Norris (Damon).

On the eve of his disastrous defeat in a bid for the U.S. Senate, David encounters a beautiful and enigmatic woman named Elise (Blunt). The two share an immediate bond, but David inadvertently discovers that the real arbiters of mankind's destiny — agents of a secret organization called the Adjustment Bureau — have their own plans for the would-be lovers and will stop at nothing to keep them apart.

In a world where free will is only an illusion and the course of history has already been determined, David and Elise challenge the mysterious group for the opportunity to choose their own fates.

Especially given its ambitious setup, writer-director Nolfi (who also penned "Oceans Twelve" and "The Bourne Ultimatum") deserves a lot of credit for making "The Adjustment Bureau" as enjoyable and accessible as it ultimately proves to be in spite of some glaring problems. Nolfi has a knack for creating likable characters, and that goes a long way in making the film's gaping plot holes and contrived narrative details more forgivable.

In building on Dick's original premise of a man accidentally getting a glimpse behind the curtains of reality, however, Nolfi has created a surprisingly engaging love story that actually overshadows in many ways the film's sci-fi elements. Some audiences will undoubtedly appreciate this, but the end product can't help but feel a little disjointed. As an odd pastiche of romantic drama and existentialist sci-fi like "Dark City" or "The Matrix" (with vague overtones of "The Manchurian Candidate" thrown in for good measure), "The Adjustment Bureau" may not satisfy purists of any genre.

At its core, though, "The Adjustment Bureau" really is about the relationship between David and Elise. Luckily for its filmmakers and audiences alike, Damon and Blunt share an undeniable chemistry that makes their onscreen romance genuinely compelling to watch. Even when the movie devolves into some underwhelming quasi-religious sci-fi exposition toward the middle and end, the pairing of its two charismatic leads manages to elevate the material beyond what is sometimes expected in the genre.

"The Adjustment Bureau" also boasts a uniformly solid supporting cast. Particularly welcome is the appearance about halfway through the movie by underrated British actor Terence Stamp, whose presence lends a much-needed sense of threat to the occasionally bumbling bureau agents.

Ultimately, "The Adjustment Bureau" is a decidedly mixed effort. Fans of Nolfi's previous collaboration with Damon on "The Bourne Ultimatum" should be warned: There is nothing in the way of pulse-pounding car chases or Filipino martial arts, although Damon's character at one point sucker punches a few people in a library. As a sci-fi film, as well, this might disappoint some moviegoers.

"The Adjustment Bureau" is rated PG-13 for strong language, some sexuality and a violent imagery; running time: 99 minutes.

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