3 Stars – Thought-Provoking
Based on the short story “Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick, this suspenseful action film explores the universal question of whether we are governed by free will or fate. The thought that “The Chairman Upstairs” has us all following a plan which does not allow human freedom is not a new idea. The ancient Greeks suggested that FATES called the “Moirae” (which means “apportioners”) prescribed our portion or our place in life. This was echoed by the Roman “Paracai” and in ancient Chinese and Japanese lore, “The Red Thread of Fate.” In these eastern forms, the idea is that the gods tie an invisible red thread on the ankles of a man and a woman who will thus be brought together by this thread and eventually marry. But in the Judeo-Christian world, the belief in love as a free choice is based firmly on the Biblical call for personal freedom to worship and love as we choose.
Although there are some Christian groups who believe in a predestined life in which even our ultimate destiny is pre-decided by God, the vast majority of Christians reject such a fatalistic view and instead recognize the importance of free choice and place the highest value on love. This is based on such 3,400 year-old statements as made in the book of Deuteronomy in the Bible which says: "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him."
Presented as a modern parable, the central character who is fighting the fates is David Norris (Matt Damon). Norris lost his family at a young age and is attempting to fill his inward emptiness with a political career. Having become a congressman, he is now running for Senator from New York. When he meets a beautiful young ballerina named Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), it is clear that they were made for each other, but it is not in the plan for his life. Because of this, the “Adjustment Bureau” steps in to end their relationship.
Predictably, this sets up the issue: Can Norris choose his own path and stay with the woman he loves, or must he accept the plan the “chairman” has decided for him. What happens in the story explores the limitation of a fatalistic view as well as the universal power of love and the free will it requires.
Most humans throughout the centuries have had a sense that there is a higher power at work in our lives. This universal awareness also raises questions of how an almighty God can be involved with humans without overpowering us and removing our ability to make free choices. These questions are explored in a suspenseful and engaging way by well-developed characters we come to care about in “The Adjustment Bureau”.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. Have you had any experience in your life that felt as though someone else was choosing your path? What made you feel that way and how did you deal with it?
2. The ability to love requires freedom of choice. The same is true of worship. If this is true, why do you think some people believe they have no choice and that their life is controlled by God?
3. The implication that the “Adjustment Bureau” agents are angels is contrary to the way angels are often described. If you believe they are angels, do you believe they change “circumstances” in a person’s life to accomplish God’s will? Why do you answer as you do?