Chance Versus Choice

The Adjustment Bureau

dir. George Nolfi

2011, Universal Pictures


The question is as old as time. How does one’s choices affect the world around them? In little ripples, or giant waves? Based on the novel of the same name by the sci-fi writer Phillip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau gives us an interesting look into the higher concepts of fate vs. free will through the lens of a classic romantic thriller. 

Matt Damon plays the running for Congressman David Norris, a young politician whose defeat at the polls proves to not be a complete loss. While practicing his concession speech, he finds himself face to face with a beautiful and firecracker of a woman played in illustrious form by Emily Blunt. He is inspired by her, and through the encounter he gets back on his feet, but not before running into her again a few days later. Their paths colliding once more, he is emboldened to ask her for her number. Fate, a literal embodiment of fate (men dressed up in the classy suits and fedora styled hats) step in. They are the Adjustment Bureau, an organization filled with beings whose job it is to keep humanity on its planned course throughout history. And there seems to be a ripple in the plan - Damon and Blunt were never supposed to be together. 

What follows is a fascinatingly engaging look into choices and the effects of those decisions. The dynamic relationship between Damon and Blunt was impressive and enjoyable to follow all the way through. You root for them in their fight to be together, and sympathize in their struggles they face. It was certainly through their budding relationship that the film’s higher concepts held its own weight. 

Stories love to touch on this subject of fate and free will. Groundhog Day, The Truman Show, even the epic short story, “A Sound of Thunder” all touch on this idea. What made this film different, and inevitably that much more interesting than a typical chance/fate story was seeing the limitations of the Adjustment Bureau. Yes, they can make someone trip and inhibit someone from entering a door, but a member of the Bureau can oversleep and miss his task of changing fate.  Humans within the context of the story are not passive observers in this story. Damon fights every inch of his path to keep from ‘falling in line’ and thereby risking his pre-ordained future. Much is at stake, which is why this story is so much fun - it’s filled with moral and story-changing dilemmas all the way till the end credits. 

This film feels the way a modern thriller should feel. Sleek and fast paced, but maintains and remembers it’s own genre’s history to feel like a classy throwback. This film was a pleasant surprise, and one that will no doubt make you want to buy a really sleek fedora yourself.