Adjustment Bureau, The

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +3

Content: +2

Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp, John Slattery. Written & directed by George Nolfi.

FILM SYNOPSIS:  On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, ambitious politician David Norris (Matt Damon) meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), a woman like none he's ever known. But just as he realizes he's falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself – the men of The Adjustment Bureau – who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us? Other movies have grappled with this question, including A Guy Named Joe, Heaven Can Wait, and even the M. Night Shyamalan thriller Signs. Indeed, the theme has become a film genre unto itself, with Stairway To Heaven being one of the most interesting. It concerned a WWII pilot who impossibly escaped death and found his true love, only to be told by a celestial court that there had been a mistake and that he was supposed to be getting his angel’s wings, not a true love.

Made by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Stairway To Heaven, was more faith-friendly than The Adjustment Bureau (T. A. B.) because its protagonists ultimately sought a Higher Power’s grace rather than suggesting He was fallible. The Adjustment Bureau, on the other hand, is more conspiratorial. Matt Damon spends our time outrunning a glum bunch of fedora-wearing angels, here called “case workers,” as he seeks a showdown with a distant deity, here called the “Chairman.”  Damon’s David believes he can somehow fight fate, proceeding to champion a convincing case for the importance of man’s free will.

The Chairman, or God, or whoever this ethereal controller is supposed to be, is the nearest the film comes to offering an antagonist. It is man who challenges this higher power, stressing that the controller is the one who needs to be controlled. (At the press junket, the filmmakers were evasive about any religious connotations despite the fact that there is this all-knowing force overlooking mankind, that he has representatives with limited power who intercede on behalf of man, and the film deals with free will, an element of human existence that can only be given by a higher being.)

While there are verses in the Bible depicting man wrangling with God (Abraham arguing with God over Lot and Moses interceding on behalf of the Israelites being two examples where man “convinced” God to change His mind about the fate of his creations), here it’s more an oppositional contest, as if God were the equivalent of Richard Nixon and Matt Damon’s David was Bob Woodward. With Damon, there’s always a bit of antagonistic activism against authority. This can be seen as a positive aspect of his makeup when challenging man’s governing powers, but perhaps presumptuous, even blasphemous when asserting that our Creator is a cosmic bully.

There was a mix of admiration and frustration among my colleagues with both the film’s theme and execution, causing lively exchange. And that’s the strength of The Adjustment Bureau – it leads to discussion. Damon is a winning actor, Blunt is beautiful and convincing in any role, and writer/director George Nolfi keeps his narrative compelling, the action lively.  Added to this, there is the tender romance and that interesting concept – would God ever take away our free will? You’ll find varying degrees of ecclesiastical elements and, depending on your theological viewpoint, the filmmaker’s agenda may be satisfying. T. A. B. contains two elements that make a film standout – it entertains and makes you think.

It’s fairly clean (read the content to see if it’s suitable for your viewing) and it leaves you with a satisfying feeling that you’ve seen a film made for those who occasionally like their special effects in the form of story, dialogue and performance rather than in CGI things that go boom.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Universal Pictures

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Around15 obscenities, mostly the s-word and a rude gesture.

Profanity: I caught two misuses of Jesus’ name.

Violence: A jolting accident with a man hit by a car; our protagonists are always having to evade their menacing pursuers.

Sex: One sexual situation, but it does not become graphic.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Social drinking in one or two scenes.

Other: None

Running Time: 102 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers.

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