Tag Archives: Matt Damon

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Is it just me, or are Hollywood movies getting better with their plot lines these days? Since Inception, more and more directors are dipping their fingers into science fiction. In 2011 alone, we have popular films like Source Code, Contagion, and In Time all with sci-fi elements serving as premises to fuel the story. In The Adjustment Bureau, fate is a book that you hold in your hand, and chance is a man in a fedora hat setting up your every choice.

On election eve, Senate candidate David Norris (Matt Damon) meets beautiful, impulsive Elise (Emily Blunt). Fate dictates that they never see each other again, but chance intervenes and sets in motion a problem for the agents of destiny. Harry (Anthony Mackie), a jaded member of the Adjustment Bureau, makes a slip-up that allows the two to meet again, and this time the attraction is strong enough to reshape their lives. The Bureau does not respond kindly to deviance, so in order to stay together, David and Elise must overcome forces they never knew existed and fight against fate itself.

“The guy rides the same bus every day for three years. Who does that?” Romantic movie heroes, that’s who. It’s easy to imagine the same scenario with Ryan Gosling, dutifully waiting for that moment he chances upon Elise again. But Matt Damon, really? Because we saw so much running from him in the Bourne series? For a movie centering on love, the romance falls flat in this film, partly because Matt Damon fails to convince. The script had some winning lines, but it also contained too many cheesy scenes. I prefer Source Code, where the focus is more on the action and the implications of the setup than the romance. Here, all I see is a sci-fi love-conquers-all drama.

Maki agrees with me: The Adjustment Bureau has a promising concept, but unfortunately it came out half-baked. Somehow it feels like the people behind it didn’t think their premise through because they were too busy trying to make it appealing. If God watched this, I’m sure he would feel offended. The Chairman is a whimsical God: he intertwines David and Elise’s fate from birth, then one day rewrites everything. Later on, he again changes his mind. Really, God? That’s the plan, impulsive revision? Plus the hat thing is just hilarious. What God would do that?

‘You ruined me. I didn’t want to settle for less.’

‘You don’t have free will, David. You have the appearance of free will.’

‘All I have are the choices I make.’

‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Even if it’s only a little while.’

Free will is a gift that you’ll never know how to use until you fight for it.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

New speakers and time to kill: good enough reasons to start a three-hour flick. Maybe I should have known, or at least anticipated it, but the Omaha beach scene took me by surprise. There is almost no conversation, hardly any sound besides the steady rattle of gunfire and the soldiers’ occasional supplications to God. It relies on visual intensity, with such unforgettable images as a man with exposed intestines crying for his mother, a mutilated soldier dragging his detached arm, and a bloody sea lapping against a corpse-laden shore. Barely twenty minutes into the film, and tears had already stung my eyes. It was disturbing enough to begin with, but what made it more affecting is the fact that it really happened—obviously not in the same way but in just as devastating a manner nonetheless.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie follows a group of eight soldiers commissioned to execute an unusual order. Led by Captain Miller (Tom Hanks), they seek out the youngest of four Ryan siblings (Matt Damon), a private whom circumstance has deemed deserving of a safe journey home. Amid the chaos of World War II, the soldiers fight for mutual survival, and on their way to completing their mission discover that something more than fate binds them together.

Although Saving Private Ryan presents a set of realistic battlefields, the real spectacle lies in the acting. Matt Damon is competent enough, but Tom Hanks gives a stunning performance, bringing to life an enigmatic leader who inspires respect from his men. Other actors also portrayed their roles well, in a way that seemed natural yet convincing enough to set them apart as individuals (Jackson the marksman is my favorite). Because of this, (the end of) their lives mattered beyond statistics: they weren’t just numbers to be counted or names to be sent along with a thousand other death notices. For war is a private affair: it shatters the individual and foments personal hatred, even against a latent awareness that both sides are only victims of a larger violence.

I do not want to spoil the ending, but at some point I became desperate for salvation, and although I did feel some disappointment at the deus ex machina aspect of it, mostly I felt relieved. I had grown so attached to the characters that I craved a happy ending.

‘All we can do here is die.’

‘Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die.’ ‘What the fuck is that supposed to mean, Corporal, huh? We’re all supposed to die, is that it?’

‘Captain didn’t go to school. They assembled him at O.C.S. out of spare body parts of dead G.I.s.’

‘Sergeant, we have crossed some strange boundary here. The world has taken a turn for the surreal.’

‘And then one day you left. You left me, and I’ve been desperate ever since. I see you all over the sky. I see you all over the earth.’

‘Tell me about your wife and those rosebushes?’ ‘No, no, that one I save just for me.’