Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau
March 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
The movie was exactly what I thought it would be . . . until it wasn’t.
The movie begins with a protagonist, David Norris, that you want to route for. As expected, a young woman, Elise, becomes his love interest after a brief encounter in the men’s restroom where David is preparing his concession speech in after losing the 2006 election for NY senator. The two have an instant connection that is disrupted by security chasing Elise down. We see David running to catch a bus and get the impression that a stranger is supposed to make him spill his coffee before he makes it. The stranger, Harry, doses off and David makes in on the bus. As fate, or not fate, would have it, Elise is on the bus. This time, David gets Elise’s number. He has been thinking about her since the night they met. Elise may quite an impression with her “be yourself and people will love you” speech. In fact, it is that speech, and David’s adherence to its tenants that end up making him a forerunner in the 2010 election.
In any event, through a series of adventures, plot twists, and some edge of your seat moments, we learn that “the chairman” has a plan for David, and it does not include Elise. In fact, The Chairman has dispatched “The Adjustment Bureau” to ensure that the two never cross paths again. David is told by a member of the AB, in a rather stern talking to, that he is never to mention the existence of the AB or to attempt to see Elise again, or he will be reset. However, David’s will powers, and some other intervening force, causing the pair to keep running into each other.
Harry, the stranger, had evidently been assigned to David since his birth, and had some sympathy for David’s plight to spend the rest of his life with Elise. Later in the movie, David asks Harry if he is an angel, to which Harry responds, “we have been called that.” Honestly, that was my first clue that this movie had strong Christian undertones. I never would have guessed by the previews. Anyway, “the chairman” (read GOD) is not pleased with the ABs inability to keep David and Elise apart, so he sends in “the big gun,” Thompson.
In the middle of a conversation with Thompson, David asks “What ever happened to free will?” Thompson responds:
We actually tried free will before. After taking you from hunting and gathering to the height of the Roman empire, we stepped back to see how you’d do on your own. You gave us the dark ages for five centuries until finally we decided we should come back in. The Chairman thought that maybe we just needed to do a better job with teaching you how to ride a bike before taking the training wheels off again. So we gave you raised hopes, enlightenment, scientific revolution. For six hundred years we taught you to control your impulses with reason. Then in nineteen ten, we stepped back. Within fifty years you’d brought us world war one, the depression, fascism, the holocaust and capped it off by bringing the entire planet to the brink of destruction in the Cuba missile crisis. At that point the decision was taken to step back in again before you did something that even we couldn’t fix.
WOW. I guess I had never looked at the evolution of humanity in that light. I sat in the theatre thinking of all the times I defied what was obviously a path set in motion by forces beyond my control (read GOD). I felt guilty, but thoughtful. I question God all the time. However, when all is said in done, I look back and see what all the trouble was for . . . always something greater.
However, this Christian did not lose hope in some version of free will. The movie’s final line, spoken by Harry, the angel, is illuminating:
“Most people live life on the path we set for them, too afraid to explore any other. But once in a while people like you come along and knock down all the obstacles we put in your way. People who realize free will is a gift you never know how to use until you fight for it … I think that’s the chairman’s real plan. That maybe one day we won’t write the plan, you will.”
I have thoughts on the meaning of this line, but I will save my thoughts and allow you to draw your own conclusions.