Title: The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
Writer/Director: George Nolfi (based on Phillip K. Dick’s novel)
Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt
The idea that our destinies are written in stone somewhere and that our lives are predetermined for us is one I am personally against. Why? Because, the question always arises: exactly where is our destiny “written” and who exactly is the one that chooses where our life is going to go? Is somebody watching over me making sure that every step I take is going according to some “preordained plan”? What if suddenly I want to walk left? Did I just change my predetermined destiny? It’s a stupid idea, the way I see it, we are the ones that choose where our lives are going, nobody chooses it for us. I am of the mind that if everything was already chosen and predetermined for us, there wouldn’t be any surprises in life. Things would be boring. What would be the point of living our lives? Of making choices? If everything is chosen for us already, we should just sit back and let life role the way it’s preordained to. I refuse to believe that. I'm the one driving this doom bugy. I make my own destiny, and I live and die by the choices that I make. But what if…just what if there was someone making sure our lives went “according to plan?” These are some of the ideas that The Adjustment Bureau plays with.
Matt Damon plays an up and coming politician named David Noriss who is hard at work on his campaign speech. While practicing it in a public bathroom, he stumbles onto a woman named Elisse, who was hiding in one of the stalls, listening to him practice his whole speech. When he asks what she thought of his speech, her advice to him is to be sincere, to go with something from the heart. Right there and then, David and Elisse are immediately attracted to each other. So much so, that they end up sharing a random kiss. After that, they depart, but David can’t forget Elisse, apparently, there was something in that kiss! Something special! Problem is, that according to 'The Adjustment Bureau', he isn’t supposed to see her ever again. It’s just not “part of the plan” for him to fall in love with her, destiny has other plans for David Noriss. And soon after, David discovers just who and what the The Adjustment Buerau is. He discovers that they are a group of individuals (actually angels) who make sure people follow their predetermined path in life. If you are deviating from your predetermined path, they make sure you get right back on track, fulfilling your destiny. Since David has altered his plan by pursuing his encounters with Elisse, it’s up to the Bureau to stop him! Will they get him, or will David and Elisse manage to live life the way they choose?
This movie touches upon a lot of themes that I find personally interesting. First up, the idea that our lives are predetermined; that God has a plan for each one of us and that we simply have to sit back and let it happen, cause it’s all written down somewhere that that’s the way it has to play out. What David and Elisse are fighting against is precisely that idea. They want to take control of their own lives, whatever the risk might be. This film also plays with Judeo Christian ideas of God and Angels, but it doesn’t do it so bluntly. In fact, God is never referred to as ‘God’, in this film he is called “The Big Chief”. The agents following David and Ellisse are actually angels making sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. By using the idea of God and Angels in the film the filmmakers can address the idea behind destiny and free will, which poses some very interesting questions. The biggest question the film brings up is: should humans be allowed to decide their own fates? What happens when humans start making their own decisions? World War II? The Holocaust? The Holy Inquisition? I enjoyed how the film addresses the idea that if we want to be making our own decisions, they better be damn good ones. Because choosing our own path in life has its consequences and we’re going to be the ones paying for whatever choices we make, be they good or bad.
Another question the film asks is: what happens when we interact in someone else’s life? This was an idea that was touched upon in Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run (1998), where in one scene Lola bumps into a lady and we see a succession of pictures that let’s us see how that ladies life changed simply because Lola bumped into her. Something similar happens on The Adjustment Bureau. David is presented with the possible futures for both him and Elisse. Would he rather fall in love with her? Or would he rather focus on his political career which would eventually lead him to become the President of the United States? Would she rather fall in love with him or become a world famous Ballerina? Love or career? A similar question was also asked in Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948) where the main character, a dancer by the name of Victoria Page had to make the same choice between love or career.
I also noticed some similarities with The Matrix (1999). The whole film is structured in an extremely similar fashion. For example, David Norris works in an office, he stumbles upon these strange individuals who are after him. Kind of like in the same way that Agent Smith comes looking for Neo at his office job. These mysterious individuals all look and dress the same, and they follow him relentlessly. Kind of like how Agent Smith and all the other agents in The Matrix all look and dress the same and follow Neo to the ends of the earth. At one point David Norris is awoken to the reality of things, and now he must live with this knowledge of the way things really are. Kind of like when Neo took the red pill. True love saves the day. The similarities go on and on, the only difference is the Judeo Christian connection, which isn’t so evident in The Matrix. And yet another film that The Adjustment Bureau has similarities with is Wings of Desire (1987), with the whole idea of angels watching over people all the time.
What we got here ladies and gentlemen is a fantasy film that plays with some very interesting themes. The angels in this film have books that marks the way your life is supposed to be going, like some map. But what happens when you go against the rules in that magic book that you’re supposed to play along too? In the film, if you take a different path, little lights start blinking pointing out that your going the wrong way! Corrective measures have to be taken! This reminded me of how Christians use the bible to guide their lives? I guess the biggest question the film asks is: do we need religion and its guidelines? Are we so stupid that we need someone else telling us the way our life should go? Or are we mature and intelligent enough to choose a good path for ourselves? I say we can choose our own paths. All we have to do is make sure that our choices come from a good place, and that they affect us and our fellow human beings in a positive way, to me that’s all it really boils down to.
Rating: 4 out of 5