The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow: "The Adjustment Bureau" and Free Will

This week, thanks to Klout Perks, my wife and I were treated to an unexpected date night and a special preview of the new Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, sci-fi, thriller, love story, "The Adjustment Bureau." Opening March 4th, I thought would depart from my regular blog faire= and write a quick review.

Before I get into the movie, I must make a couple of comments about the movie watching experience. Keep in mind this was a FREE preview showing. One of the distractions was that the projection malfunctioned three times, not great for movie watching, but you would have thought someone has just raided the crowds pension funds. After one break in the film tempers flared and at one point there was a family - kids in tow - swearing at another group and challenging them to "take it outside." Nice parental modeling, first by taking young children to a movie that was not for children, then getting into a profanity-laced argument peoples reactions to being disrupted during a FREE movie. I know I may sound a little uptight, but really . . . it was free. The second thing that happened is that we were sitting in front of a moderately well-known radio SF radio personality. Now I am sure he was not TRYING to get noticed and nothing he did was particularly obnoxious, but Hooman Khalili of 97.3 Alice, did talk a little too loudly about himself in the third person on more than one occasion. Just sayin' ;-)

But enough about my fellow film watchers, you can read my ReTweetable Review or keep reading this rambling . . . Here is the basic story line, pretty simple really . . .

  • Boy follows life plan.
  • Boy meets Girl in men's bathroom, part of the plan.
  • Boy sees Girl, again, which is not part of the plan.
  • Adjusters try to get him back onto the plan.
  • Boy captured by adjusters, they tell him about the plan and tell him to forget about amazing Girl.
  • Boy decides to follow the plan.
  • Boy loves Girl, says eff off to the plan.
  • Girl finds out about the plan too.
  • Boy and Girl try to outrun the plan.
  • At the end, Boy and Girl _______________ the plan.
  • And through it all . . . lots of doors, lots of running, lots of cleavage and if you had to drink every time someone said the word, "plan" you would have been sauced off your rocker by the end of the movie.

Overall I enjoyed the flick. Both Matt Damon and Emily Blunt gave solid performances, were charming, had GREAT chemistry and ya really rooted for them throughout the movie.  The main Adjuster was one of my favorite actors, John Slattery from Homefront, I liked the rogue Adjuster played by Anthony Mackie and it was cool to see Law and Order: SVU crime tech, Joel de la Fuente, make an appearance.

Visually, this was a decent flick. Special effects were not gamechangers by any means, but the use of the doors that acted as shortcut portals to other parts of the city was pretty cool. And I'll just say it, as my wife so tactfully said after it was over in reference to the already above mentioned , "Emily Blunts cleavage and dress deserve a best supporting actress nomination." Just as Naomi Watts' nighty in King Kong never seemed the worse for the wear with all of the jungle action, Emily's scant dresses were always perfectly in place as Matt flung her through doorways and down hallways during the climactic chase scenes. Truth be told, while I do love Emily Blunt, the camera shots and angles directed towards her chest were a little distracting and actually made me chuckle a bit during parts that were not supposed to be funny.  But hey, at least they didn't have her also doing all of this heels.  Lots of traditional male/female roles played here which could be unpacked, but suffice it to say, combined with the fact that all the adjusters were all men, there were no great gender walls broken down in this flick.

Over all rating, 7 out of 10 . . . like that means anything at all.

What this movie does provide, besides a satisfying movie-watching experience, is a catalyst for some interesting conversations about free will and the existence of a predestined plan for individuals or the world designed and monitored by some God, or in this case, "The Chairman." The Adjustment Bureau raises some interesting questions and makes some interesting statements about the entire enterprise.

  • As mentioned above, all of the adjusters are male as is The Chairman, I assume. This left me wondering why this choice was made, to make a statement or an observation?
  • They deal with some of questions about a power that decides EVERYTHING: while the plan is clear, written in black and white, we are also told that is not about the little choices, but about the big picture AND that if they were not doing the adjusting, it would be much much worse.
  • The biggest question they address is of course, assuming there is a plan, once written, can it be changed?

The historic retelling that is described between The Adjustment Bureau and humanity is all about letting humanity have free will only to mess thing up. The Bureau has to step back in, right things as much as possible and stay on top of these wayward humans. There is a dance that is described that tries to make sense of pain and destruction in the world and answer the age old question, "If God is all-powerful, why the is the world so messed up?" Not sure I buy the ease with which it is explained, but again, I am glad they were getting at much of nuance.

Even though I am sure you can guess what probably happens in the end, I won't spoil it by dealing with the final outcome. Suffice it to say, the bigger message gets you thinking about our lives and the choices we make, or think we make. A great line was spoken, "All I have are the choices I make." Is that true? How much of our life is chance and how much is part of some unfolding of a predestined reality?

So in the end, fun movie, but not earth-shattering. If you are a Damon and Blunt fan, you will love them together both being their strong, sassy and sexy selves. But most of all, if you are at all part of a religious tradition that holds up some "plan" designed and monitored by God, get thee to the theater for this one. You won't be disappointed.

[Taken with permission from the blog of the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, originally posted March 3, 2011. Follow Bruce on Twitter @breyeschow.]