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Straying alive

movie-reviews Updated: Jan 20, 2012 17:00 IST

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The Adjustment Bureau
Reliance Home Video/Universal
Rs 599
Rating: **

Many stories by iconclastic science fiction writer Philip K Dick have been successfully adapted to film. His novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? became Ridley Scott's classic 1982 sci-fi noir movie Blade Runner. The film transfer the dystopic, paranoid visions of the book on to cinema. George Nolfi tries the same thing with Dick's 1959 short story, The Adjustment Team, to bring us The Adjustment Bureau. It succeeds only partially.

Successful politician David Norris, played with square-jawed confidence by Matt Damon, runs for a US Senate seat and is on the verge of victory when an old scandal becomes public knowledge and dashes his prospect. He meets the mysterious and scatty ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) and starts thinking of things other than his career: he starts thinking of love. But that, apparently, is straying from The Plan. In Dick's story, those entities entrusted to make Norris stick to his plan are shadowy, uber-governmental beings. In the film, the appearance of trilby hat-wearing members of the 'adjustment bureau' echo this sense of paranoia. But down the line, they turn into almost cute guardian angels turning the film into a Wings of Desire-meets-You've Got Mail flick. There are scenes where Damon, flitting in and out of 'normality' and the Bureau's world are happily unhinging. But the rom-com element of the film refuses to go away and what we get is a bunch of people straight out of Mad Men trying to force the hero to 'stay away from the girl' and stick to the chosen path. A missed opportunity, althought Blunt does look stunning throughout the film.

Over and over again
Source Code
Reliance Home Video/52 Weeks
Rs 599
Rating: ****
Unlike this film which looks and smells like a Philip K Dick story and certainly seems inspired by the science fiction master's loopy plots and atmospherics. But Source Code, written by screenwriter Ben Ripley and directed by Duncan Jones (who happens to be David Bowie's son once familiar as Zowie Bowie), mixes the techno-feel of William Gibson and Dick's signature trail of paranoia to bring an intelligent, palpable sci-fi thriller. The opening scene finds actor Jake Gyllenhaal waking up in a train unsure of where he is. He gets his bearings once the woman sitting opposite him (Michelle Monaghan) starts to talk, but he is unmoored again as he slowly finds he is inhabiting someone else's body. The protaginist turns out to be Colter Stevens, a soldier pulled out of the war in Afghanistan for a special US military project to hunt down and stop a terrorist attack that is yet to happen. In the intriguing plot, Stevens keeps going back to the same scenario -- in the train carriage facing the woman and with little time to find the bomb and the bomber -- until his mission is accomplished.

Gyllenhaal plays the man in a nightmare with a looped algorithm -- the source code -- well, dragging the viewer each time and making us want to shake him up from the computer program he's the hardware for. It's an intriguing chamber movie with the right amount of speculative drama. And there's a great Dick-ish twist in the end.

(Rock'n'Roll Circus will be back next week)