The Adjustment Bureau
Whether you will enjoy this film
depends a lot on your personal theology. On
the very basic question of how our human free will intersects and interacts
with the divine plan, it helps if you continue to be intrigued by that
religious issue. But the religion
represented here is very carefully whitewashed not only of
denominationalism, but sectarianism, as well.
What appears, then, is so politically-correct non-identifiable as to
be scrubbed of any recognition at all, which, of course, creates its own
replacement of the traditionalism it is trying so assiduously to avoid.
The Universal Picture promo even utilizes the term “Fate”---which
is a reference to the Greek pantheon which assumes a pre-Christian
polytheism. And the “agents” of
“The Chairman” are remarkably circumspect in their explanations, as
well, but they do look like ordinary men (though all skinny and wearing
fedoras and dressed in business suits). And
they all work for “The Adjustment Bureau,” which is charged with making
small interactive adjustments to human behavior so that events will conform
to the pre-arranged “Plan” of “The Chairman.”
Thus, for the sincere believer, the very premise is fascinating:
how to deal with the complex, delicate topic of predestination
without ever using the word.
Matt Damon plays David Norris, a
young, successful politician on the cusp of winning a Senate seat from
. But some embarrassing photographs
of college fraternity hijinks de-rail the campaign, and a clearly
disappointed Norris is standing by himself in the Men’s Room, reluctantly
rehearsing his concession speech. That’s
when he meets Elise (Emily Blunt), who was hiding out in one of the stalls
because security was after her because, well, she’d crashed a wedding
reception. Our freshly-failed
campaigner finds that refreshingly amusing, even admitting to her that he
did that once, himself. There’s
something charming and disarming about their interaction, but little do they
know there are mysterious forces working against them.
Norris delivers his concession speech,
unexpectedly giddy, looking forward to contacting the mysterious Elise as
soon as possible. But then he’s
accosted by strange men who tell him he must not do that, and they burn the
card with her telephone number on it. Bewildered,
he wonders what in the world (or otherworld) that was all about, but then,
by chance (ah, the introduction of other prevailing forces into the
equation), he spots her on the bus. It
seems the “agent” in charge of making sure that didn’t happen nodded
off on the job (that’s the trouble with assuming mortal form).
Now they’ve met again, and they weren’t supposed to, which
somehow alters “The Plan”, but nobody seems to know exactly why it’s
so important for this romance not to happen.
At this point the romantics in the
crowd are rooting for the charming, beautiful, sexy couple to somehow find a
way to be together. And Norris is
more than determined; he is ready to give up a still-promising political
career for the chance to be with the one person he can’t quit thinking
about—and she, it seems, feels the same way, but she has a career, also
(as a ballet dancer and choreographer), and a boyfriend/fiancée, and,
well-----who knows what might have happened if we’d chosen our mates
Ah, but that’s exactly what we’re
dealing with here---the consequences of making personal decisions, and the
unforeseen effects on the lives of others, as well.
Can any of this be undone, or done over?
Well, that’s the mysterious part, isn’t it?
It’s interesting that one of the
“agents” explains that there were times and seasons of greater
intervention in human history: more
in Roman times, less in the Dark Ages, more in The Enlightenment, less in
The Holocaust---pretty much implying that when they back off, we mess it up.
So the price of freedom is chaos? Ah,
but the most fascinating part is when “the powers that be” are, in turn,
inspired by humans to change their intentions (see the instances in
scripture of God “changing His mind,” for example, Exodus 32:14).
So, of course, at the end, we still
have logical muddle, but we also enjoy the spectacle of humans acting
determinedly and courageously in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds,
especially in the pursuit of love---which is divinely human, indeed.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor,
United Presbyterian Church,