Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Spoiler Level:  High

This is the first time I've walked into a movie cold in a long, long time.  All I'd seen about it was the promo poster pictured here, and the only thing I'd heard about it was that it was written by Phillip K. Dick.  Those two items were enough to get me to go see it. To be completely honest, I even kept forgetting the name of the movie I was going to see. That can be the best way to see a movie sometimes, because everything comes as a surprise.

David Norris is a politician running for Senator from New York, when two major things happen to him-- he runs into a woman he feels destined to be with named Elise, and he stumbles across an organization that controls what's Really Going On.

The Adjustment Bureau is following a Plan, and we mere humans aren't supposed to know anything about it.  Now that Norris knows, he needs to keep his mouth shut about it and just go back about his life.  Which he seems like he'd be willing to do, except for the fact that the Plan calls for Norris and Elise to never see each other again.  And that's the part Norris can't accept.

From there the movie becomes an action thriller, with Norris trying to find and build a life with Elise again while constantly evading the Bureau's efforts to keep them apart yet not being able to explain why he's doing the things he's doing. 

The film raises lots of great questions about predestination versus free will.  Earth is obviously someone's experiment, 6.91 billion people with their own capacity for free choice, all subject to random chance, yet at the same time all being subtly manipulated without their knowledge, steering individuals to make the choices that the Adjustment Bureau wants them to make.  Exactly who and what the Bureau are is never fully explained, although it's clear that they've been guiding humanity since its inception, under the guidance of the Plan laid out by the Chairman.  Is the Chairman God, and are the Agency His angels?  Possibly; if nothing else, they're most likely the cause of humanity's belief in God.  Are they something more sinister?  Possibly; how can anyone deny two people true love and still be good? But the Plan all seems to be for the greater good of humanity, so they're definitely not evil. It doesn't just ask if we really have free will, but more importantly, do we deserve it?

And this is where the film's strength lies.  It's a fun action movie with unusual motivations that make you think and wonder, and I use wonder in the sense of both being curious and of being in awe of something bigger than you.

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