The Adjustment Bureau deals with some deeply philosophical issues in an entertaining and engaging narrative.
David Norris (Matt Damon) is on a fast track to political success when an episode from his past dashes his hopes. But then he meets the beautiful ballerina Elise (Emily Blunt) in a men’s bathroom and falls deeply in love with her. But their love is not meant to be. It is not part of the predetermined plan for David’s life and the Adjustment Bureau is brought in to get his life back on track. David is shocked to discover that the life he thought was his choice is, in fact, nothing more than a manipulation of events according to the plan mapped out for him by the “Chairman” of the Adjustment Bureau. Of course, David is not happy about his life being manipulated – especially when it means he is not supposed to be with Elise – the person who has, for the first time in 25 years, made him feel as though he is not alone. He tries to comply with the plan but finds his love for Elise overwhelming and he decides to take things into his own hands and assert his freedom of choice.
Many Christians believe that God has a plan mapped out for everyone’s life and that God manipulates all events to bring about God’s purposes. Nothing occurs by chance. Whatever happens is as God wills it. Apart from this not being a biblical teaching, it is logically incoherent. And The Adjustment Bureau, while not explicitly mentioning God, pulls apart the implications of this naive view showing what would need to be happening behind the scenes if it was true. Others believe in some vague idea of Fate controlling things and the same implications apply.
It must be said that the story itself is actually quite simple. And it may be that the story will be of more interest to those who have an interest in the philosophical and theological issues surrounding predestination and free will. Damon and Blunt do a good job of their roles with support from members of the Adjustment Bureau that could have been more impactful.
The end of the movie tends to collapse into an insipid assertion that we can have control over our lives by asserting freedom of choice – but that could have been more subtle leaving the viewer to come to these conclusions naturally. I personally like movies that leave me suspended in ambiguity rather than doing the thinking for me (consider, for example, Inception).
Overall, I found The Adjustment Bureau to be enjoyable, provocative, and contemporary. It has suspense, romance, and intrigue. Even those who do not come from a religious background of predestinarian thinking will benefit from the idea that we can take control of circumstances and assert our freedom of choice.
'An exhilarating balancing act, at once a science-fiction romp, a paranoid thriller and a philosophical treatise.’ – Calvin Wilson/St Louis Post Dispatch
'There's a startling moment 10 or 15 minutes into The Adjustment Bureau - the only time, really, when the film achieves any level of surprise. The dispiriting dullness of this dreary misfire hasn't had time to settle in and thicken: The movie hasn't yet revealed its utter and thorough ineptitude.’ – Rene Rodrigruez/Miami Herald
brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image