The Adjustment Bureau

A young, popular New York City politician suffers an unexpected electoral defeat. Suddenly he finds himself face-to-face with the girl of his dreams – a strange woman he’s never met before – in an unlikely place. Their time is short, the attraction is palpable enough for a sudden, passionate kiss, interrupted by campaign staff. She exits quickly. He has only her first name and these few moments. He delivers the speech of a lifetime, and from the jaws of defeat, snatches superstardom and frontrunner status for the next open Senate seat in New York state.

In a city as vast as this, he could never find this beautiful stranger using only her first name – but chance throws them together on a city bus, and it’s clear this is something special. Too special, in fact. He was not supposed to see her again. A group of grim, dark-suited G-men snatch him from his workplace to inform him: they are with the Adjustment Bureau, and this love affair not in The Plan. Whose plan? The Chairman’s – but you know him by many names.

What follows is a fast-paced, but coherent sci-fi romance that turned out to be the perfect mix for my bride and I – with Matt Damon doing a low-key Bourne, trying to outsmart and outpace adversaries who are nearly (but not quite!) omnipotent and omnipresent, and who are bent on keeping him from what he feels sure is true love. More than once he is ripped abruptly from Emily Blunt’s life, re-finds her, and works to regain her trust, unable to tell her what’s really going on.

It’s a solid, entertaining movie, with some language and sexuality (including two instances of a word neither Jodi or I thought was permitted in PG-13 films). And it’s thought-provoking after the fact: at one point, Damon’s character asks a more sympathetic “adjuster” if they are angels. This is not an idle observation, since the underlying problem in the movie is the problem of free will versus predestination. The film proposes a world in which beings who are less limited and more powerful than humans direct the world according to a grand scheme they themselves do not entirely comprehend. From what little I’ve read, this is in close keeping with Catholic traditions and teachings about angels – except that in the film, the adjusters suggest that they function to override human free will, which, unfettered, produced the Dark Ages and the World Wars, but with their guidance (i.e., free will only with regard to small, day-to-day choices), yields peace, happiness, and productivity. (Hmm…that sounds familiar.)

I don’t believe angels, according to Catholic teachings and belief, have the option of taking free will from us. They operate more subtly and keep the world operating according to plan…but we still choose. We make our beds, and we lie in them.

In the film, the very aggressiveness and implacability of the adjusters seem to increase our hero’s resolve and drive him to his climactic decision and the film’s resolution. It’s almost as if the adjusters themselves are off-plan…and as if that, in fact, is part of the plan.

One thought on “The Adjustment Bureau

  1. Pingback: A Quiet Place, or Unbearable Blessing of Parenthood | Archangel Stomp

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