The Adjustment Bureau: A Review

First off, I would just like to say that I like this movie poster a lot. It’s very North by Northwest. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry.

The Adjustment Bureau is a movie that takes you behind the curtain. It explores ideas of fate and free will and gives us a vision of what may be going on behind the scenes to keep everything running according to plan. In the film, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt play two people who feel as though they are destined to be together but find out that not only are they not supposed to be together, there is a whole agency, the Adjustment Bureau, that is working very hard to keep them apart.

I am going to do my very best not to give anything away, but I can’t promise anything, so, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, beware, I may spoil it for you. (doesn’t that sentence sound better than “spoiler alert”?)

I have to say that I enjoyed the movie. I went in without much expectation and it turned out to be a very enjoyable and exciting ride. It is relatively clean, though I wouldn’t recommend bringing the kids. The story could have been tighter and every now and then the script dipped into sappiness, but overall it was a solid film.

What I really want to address is the nature of the movie’s subject matter, which, as far as I know, hasn’t really been touched in this way. THe idea behind the movie feels like a sci-fi short story, but when it comes down to it, The Adjustment Bureau is a unique attempt at explaining the way our lives are planned out. Do we have a say in our own destiny? Do we truly have free will? Are our steps ordered for us, and if so, can I change that order? This a very human story.

You see this agency is run by someone we only know as “the Chairman”, he is never seen, but he runs the show. He plots out the paths that each person will take and sets their destiny based on his own preference. He sends out agents who refuse to admit to being angels, though they seem to be, to do his bidding by making sure things go according to his sovereign plan. They don’t really know what they plan is, they just serve him in the way he designed. Is this starting to sound familiar?

Matt Damon’s character, who’s name is David, asks one of these messengers whether or not he has free will. The answer is a valiant attempt to explain Christian thought, but it falls short. David is told that he has the ability to chose his toothpaste and which kind of tie to wear, but the big decisions, the ones that change the course of one’s life, have already been laid out for him and there is really nothing he can do. This explanation falls short because Scripture tells us that God orders everything down to the way that dice fall. There is absolutely nothing outside of His plan, including the toothpaste we use. But Scripture also says that we make choices, we can disobey God, we can obey Him, we can put on clothes and drink and make decisions, all while never feeling the slightest bit of the plan that God has set in place. This is the balance between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility that we must wrestle with every day. God plans the good and bad things that happen to us and in the world, but we carry them out. It is a hard line to walk, but Scripture calls us to walk it.

The real difficulty is that this “Chairman” is really a twisted character. He is in charge of everything that goes on in the world, the good and the bad, but the problem of sin is never addressed. If people were basically good, then what kind of a god would subject people to so much pain? The reality though is that sin is a very real problem, and though Jesus defeated the power of sin on the cross, we still feel the effects of sin here on earth. Things have not fully healed yet. Terrorist attacks and earthquakes, cancer and abortion are all a result of sin in the world, not individual sin, as though God were punishing us, but of our collective sin that has stained every part of this world, the good and the bad. But God sent Jesus to right the wrongs and pave the way for those who trust in Him to be saved from this world of destruction and into a world that is perfect and free. In The Adjustment Bureau there is no ultimate reason for the bad things that happen, there is no eternal purpose whereby the Chairman works out all things for good, and there is no hope of redemption. There is no where to turn in order to be saved from the fate that awaits us.

There is, however, a kind of redemption. The characters are able to work for their salvation and achieve a happiness for themselves (without giving too much away.) The Chairman is shown to be one who changes his mind as a result of man’s actions. In one sense, it is reminiscent of Moses pleading before God to stay His hand and allow the people of Israel to live, but on the other hand, it makes the Chairman out to be seriously less that sovereign, and his plans much less than perfect. You see, God answers our prayers when we ask in faith, and He does alter events on earth as we plead before Him, but His sovereign plan, His ultimate good that He is working every second of every day, never changes. He is preparing for the restoration of His bride the church and there is nothing that will stop that from taking place.

Thanks for sticking with me through this one. I don’t want you to come away from this movie without having a good time. It is a fun ride and provides lots of things to think about. I have been forced to look again at what I believe about God’s sovereignty and come away feeling more secure in Christ because of it. If a movie can do that, it’s probably worth seeing. See it with a few people and enjoy the conversations that ensue.

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