The Adjustment Bureau
Reviewed by: Laura Busch
Sci-Fi Action Romance Thriller
1 hr. 39 min.
Year of Release:
March 4, 2011
DVD: June 21, 2011
TRUE LOVE—What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer
sin and its results in the world
politics and manipulation
Does everything that happens in life do so for a reason?
angels in the Bible
“Fight for your fate.”
Are we really the masters of our own fate or is there a higher power at work, guiding our decisions. For centuries, theologians and philosophers across the world have debated the concepts of free will and pre-destination and George Nolfi’s romantic thriller, “The Adjustment Bureau” delves into these theological concepts.
The film follows the story of protagonist, David Norris (Matt Damon), an up and coming young politician from New York who is running for U.S. Senate. David’s campaign is on fire until an embarrassing photo from an immature college prank hits the media. Just as his goal of achieving his political dreams seem to be shattered, David meets a mysterious woman named, Elise (Emily Blunt), a talented ballet dancer. David instantly falls for her and after exchanging a passionate kiss, she inspires him to deliver the most sincere a compelling speech of his career, propelling him to the political forefront once again, and he becomes the front-runner in the next election.
When David encounters the mysterious Elise again and attempts to start a relationship with her, David quickly learns that his choices are not his own and his life’s direction is not under his control, but is decided by a higher power.
David soon becomes privy to a power he didn’t even know existed, after he accidentally witnesses a mysterious group of men, who call themselves the Adjustment Bureau, performing mind manipulation on his campaign manager. David learns that the Adjustment Bureau is a covert group of individuals who quietly carry out the Chairman’s plans for individuals’ lives.
David also meets Harry (Anthony Mackie), an Adjustment Bureau agent, who has been assigned to David since birth to be a gentle guiding hand in his life to keep him on “The Plan” that the Chairman has written for David’s life.
The agents of the Adjustment Bureau tell David that he was only supposed to have a single encounter with Elise, an accomplished ballet dancer, and they tell him that he cannot be with her and live out the Plan that has been set for his life. David refuses to accept this fate that has been assigned to him and he embarks on a journey to bring he and Elise together, but he must face the Adjustment Bureau, who will do anything to keep them apart.
Positive elements and spiritual content
One can certainly draw parallels between the Christian faith and the film’s themes of free will vs. pre-destination, and the concept of a higher power or a guiding force in our lives. While this film is not overtly Christian and is certainly not allegorical in nature there are many metaphorical aspects to it. During one scene, David asks Harry, the agent assigned to him, if “he is an angel” and when David attempts to better understand who the Chairman is, Harry looks up into the sky and kindly tells David that “we (humans) know him by many other names.”
Director, Nolfi’s film takes somewhat of an indecisive stance on the theological concepts that he attempts to explore in this romantic thriller. On one hand, the Adjustment Bureau and its elusive head, The Chairman, are cast as the villains, and the director asks you to root against them, because they are keeping the film’s two protagonists from living out their true love together. On the other hand, the Adjustment Bureau is portrayed as an omniscient guiding force that only wants the best for society.
This film also touches upon man’s sinful nature and our need for God, and the consequences of a Godless society. In one scene, David argues with one of the agents about mankind’s lack of free will. The agent explains to David that throughout history the Chairman has given humanity greater freedom to make choices for themselves, but every time the Chairman has stepped back humanity has made decisions that have led society into some of the worst periods in history, such as the Dark Ages, World Wars I and II, and the Holocaust. He also explains that during some of the greatest periods of history, such as the Roman Empire, Renaissance, and the Enlighten, the Chairman exerted much greater power in guiding humanity. The many spiritual aspects of this film are addressed in a rather broad manner and leave much for the viewers to interpret for themselves.
One of the most negative aspects of the film is the manner in which they chose to develop the love story between the characters of David and Elise. I found their first encounter, which resulted in ‘love’ at first sight and ended in a passionate kiss to be rather unconvincing and shallow. I was also disappointed that David and Elise ended up in bed together. The love scene is relatively brief and shows them in bed together covered by blankets but revealing their bare shoulders as they kiss passionately. The film could have been much improved if the director had laid a more convincing foundation for David and Elise’s relationship, and if he had not resorted to the typical Hollywood bedroom scene. Their characters’ brief and shallow encounters made it hard to believe that they were truly in love.
There is a moderate amount of violent content in this film. Harry is hit by a car and violently bounces off the windshield before falling to the ground. Harry’s character is all right though. In one of the many chase scenes where the agents are in pursuit of David, the agents cause a car accident to prevent David from getting to Elise. One of the drivers in the accident has blood dripping down his face.
“The Adjustment Bureau”’s dialogue is also peppered with profanities. There are over a dozen uses of the s-word, several f-words, and a smattering of other profanities including the words, h—l (approximately 10 uses), b---h, ba----d, d---n, a---, Elise refers to someone as a ‘tool’ and in another scene she jokingly flips David off. The Lord’s name is also profaned more than six times and there are at least one or two uses of God’s name with the profanity, d—n.
Other content that may be of concern to some viewers includes some of Elise’s contemporary ballet moves. Elise also wears several low cut tops throughout the film and David also makes a flirty comment about Elise’s short skirt that she is wearing in one scene.
“The Adjustment Bureau” is more than just a typical Hollywood action thriller, because it not only leaves its audience entertained but it gives them something of significance to think about and discuss. Even though, “The Adjustment Bureau” addresses the concepts of free-will, predestination, God, and other major topics of theological debate in a rather broad, sweeping manner, it can still serve as an excellent conversation starter for more substantive discussions about theological issues among fellow Christians and people of other faiths.
Note: I only recommend this film to mature audiences for its potential as a starting point for conversations about faith-oriented topics. It still earns a morality rating of “Offensive” due to its profanity and sexual content.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.