Sunday, 7 April 2013
The Adjustment Bureau (4½ Stars)
This is a fascinating film that deals with important topics. What makes a person make decisions? Is there such a thing as free will? Or are our decisions simply the product of the stimuli that we receive? These are questions that have been discussed in the realms of religion, philosophy and even psychology for centuries.
David Norris is a New York congressman running for the Senate in 2006. He's ahead in the polls, but on the day before the election photos are leaked to the press of an immature college prank which turns the electorate against him. The election results are announced, and by chance he meets a ballet dancer before he holds his speech to wish the winner luck. She inspires him to give a moving speech which boosts his popularity and makes him certain to win the following election.
A month later David sees the woman on a bus and finds out her name is Elise. He wants to stay in touch with her, but he is kidnapped by a group of mysterious men who burn the note with her telephone number and forbid him to see her again. They tell him that it isn't his plan. The men present themselves as the "Adjustment Bureau", an organisation of supernatural beings who have been guiding the development of the human race for thousands of years. Their job is to prod important people into making the right decisions, by creating chance encounters that will keep them to a plan written by their leader, the "Chairman". It's very rare for the bureau to let itself be seen, but David is a very important person who they want to become the American President.
David immediately makes the connection and asks if they are angels and the Chairman is God. They give a vague answer that leaves both David and the viewers to make their own decision. The bureau deny that man has free will. Everything a person does is based on the stimuli he receives from the environment, and it is up to the bureau to create helpful stimuli. The bureau members themselves are not omniscient, but they carry books with the plan written by the Chairman telling them the results from every possible stimulus.
David is not happy with being told that he has to follow a plan that forbids him to see Elise again. He demands the right to have free will and acts against the plan set for him. The word "destiny" is noticeably avoided in the film, as if to suggest that there's a higher purpose than the plan itself.
I'll stop here because I've already written too much. This review contains too many spoilers. This is a good film to watch with a friend and sit discussing afterwards. It won't change the mind of anyone who already has fixed views on destiny, whether from a theist or atheist standpoint, but it will provoke those who are undecided to consider the deeper questions of life.