The Adjustment Bureau (2011) - A Thriller that Questions Morality

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

During one of my all-too-frequent Internet searches for news on all the latest movies, The Adjustment Bureau popped up. What fascinated me, I cannot say with certainty but its top two billed stars did nothing to hinder the attraction. It's a high-class thriller that, in the end, messes with Free Will. It won't suit everyone, but beneath its modern ideals, there is an interesting story. 

Making a bid for the U.S. Senate is no small task. One has to maintain a certain image and be ready for anything the press might publish. That is exactly what David Norris (Matt Damon) is attempting to do. Despite his many run-ins with bad press (as a "Bad Boy"), he is overwhelmingly supported by voters. His latest stunt becomes a hindrance, and while prepping his concession speech, he has an encounter with a beautiful woman who changes his life. 

She inspires him to give the speech he needs in order to look promising enough for a secondary run in four years. When they have another chance meeting he finally gets her number and name but before he can pursue her, he is taken against his will by Richardson (John Slattery). This stranger gives him a glimpse into his future. By people who "control" the future, David is warned  away from Elise – or he will not only be deviating from destiny but ruining her dreams.

Three years later, another chance encounter sends he and Elise (Blunt) on the run from Fate…

Aside from some immoral content, there is a deeper skewed message in the script that will probably offend Christian audiences. I will be upfront before I get any further into the logistics of the movies’ recurring themes and message: I ended up liking the movie. It's a departure from normal in my viewing vocabulary, but something is appealing about it. Perhaps it’s the look of the film (it kind of takes a forties-era approach) or the acting, whatever it is, it's entertaining. 

More puzzling or perhaps, troubling for certain audiences, will be the flawed emotional elements, and some may feel like the movie is rigged to play mind games on those struggling with free will.

Some believe that God “pre-plans” lives: that our choices are not our own, that He sees the future. God gave us a free will and its definition is exactly as it sounds. The Adjustment Bureau wants us to conclude that the “higher being” in the movie is a god-like figure; most obvious when David questions an agent if he is an angel, his reply is that they’ve been called that. These characters are irresistibly engaging (I absolutely love the sparring witty dialogue between Blunt and Damon – the humor in them instantly put a smile on my face), and if you are able to separate the story as nothing but an alternate universe in which villains rule habits, emotions and dictate who we are able to spend time with, then there is no harm in seeing this. 

I don't find this a “bad” script (looking at it more as a fantasy than reality helped). Fate was impressed with David’s persistence in getting the life he wanted – and defying fate to be with Elise. Romance is the biggest player in the movie, more so than a thriller, but you should keep in mind that part of the movie is considered sci-fi (just without benefit of cool effects!). If you are a cynic, this won’t be to your liking because both Elise and David felt a one-time connection that spanned four years of chance encounters and was reason behind many of their individual choices. In closing, the voice-over reminds us not to forget what a gift free will is – wise advice. If that's the only takeaway, it's an important one. Let’s remember not to take it for granted.

(Caution: Elise and David return to her apartment where they spend the night together. Elise is just coming off a three-month break-up and once David walks away, she returns to her ex. Swearing is pretty infrequent for a PG13 but does include GD, sh*t and a misplaced f-bomb. Briefly we learn a man from the past committed suicide. The Adjustment Bureau is rated PG13.)


  1. This was phenomenal! Enjoyed my first Damon movie, and fell in love with Emily much so that I finally watched The Young Victoria and LOVED it! She is a truly great actress.

  2. Rissi, I loved this movie....Matt Damon is one of my absolute favorites (you are right, he is the standard for all spy thrillers ;-) and Emily Blunt is definitely an up and comer. This movie is one that makes you think...and I like that occasionally with a movie.

    Hey, you wouldn't be, by any chance, be the Rissi who writes on Charity's Place, are you? If so, I LOVE your writing =) Though you often beat me to some of the movies.

  3. Meghan - you are so right; this is a great movie. Especially if you look at it as fiction and Truth, then it just becomes great entertainment. =)

    Isn't Emily just adorable!? Have you seen her in “Wild Target” or what many Americans consider her break-out role, “The Devil wears Prada?” Both are PG13 but still have their moments of brilliance.

    Ella - me too! Matt Damon is a fabulous actor, and each new movie that has his name attached finds me anticipating his new role. (I am "upset" that he won't be starring in the fourth "Bourne" movie; at least it will chronicle the adventures of a new character though.)

    Yes, I do write for Charity’s Place and love it! Thanks for your kind comments; writing is something I love spending time at, so it is a pursuit I am constantly trying to improve. Sorry about getting in before you on some of those reviews… apparently there are a lot of people who like the same stuff. =)

    Thank you both for stopping by – I appreciate it. =)

  4. Rissi, "Devil Wears Prada" is really enjoyable, isn't it =) And wow.....thought that was you. Yeah, I write on there and I was about to do something, only Charity uploaded and YOU had done it already. HA HA. I will say, you made me fall in love with "Castle." So thanks for doing those reviews ;-) I found season 3 on youtube so I don't have to wait for it to come out! Yay!!

  5. Oh! How fun! I assumed you were the same Ella. I think I have probably read all your movie reviews and it is amusing that we see/review a lot of the same material. LOL!

    So glad you like “Castle” – it is fabulous, right!? Sometimes I think my mom likes it better than I do. Since I cannot stand the idea of watching a show on the computer instead of while snuggled up on the couch… I’ll just wait the extra few weeks for the DVD set, but you can be sure they’ll be some “Castle” posts upcoming in the next few weeks. =) And just so you know: YOUR reviews on “Bones” have been so convincing (did you have to make it sound so good??) that I want to try it, but I watch so many other shows right now, I’ve not rented it… yet!

    “Devil Wears Prada” is fun (I really should watch it again…).

  6. That is so funny!! I think every time I see a movie I was planning on doing "Bet it's Rissi"...and sure enough, 9 times out of 0 it is.

    Castle is wonderful!!! I just finished season 3 today and it was wonderful! Sorry, but I won't give you any spoilers....again ;-) The ending is going to knock your socks off; hopefully, you have steered clear of all the spoiler blogs or else you would know what I mean.

    Oh, thanks. BONES is definitely one of my favorites, so I had to make it sound good. However, due to the actress being pregnant, I have to wait until November for the season to premiere....and they left it at such a jaw dropper needs to come out on DVD so I can check one or two things before I send it to Charity =D

  7. So gald to hear S3 of "Castle" is good. I am a huge spoiler person, so yes, I have read all the details about the cliffhanger.

    Don't TV writers have a LOT of nerve leaving viewers hanging like that!? I mean REALLY! Can't wait to read your review of "Bones" this fall - I always do. =)


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