February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
April 5, 2011
Based on the short story, Adjustment Team (by Philip K. Dick), The Adjustment Bureau tells the story of David Norris (Matt Damon) and Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) – two driven individuals who seem destined to be together. Curiously, however, a mysterious group of well-dressed men in fedoras show up at every corner (literally), determined to keep them apart. These fellas are known as the Adjustment Bureau. Their business is adjusting people’s future, so that everything goes according to the plan of the “Chairman.” However, in the midst of all their adjusting, David accidentally stumbles upon the activities of the secret organization, which sets the film on a trajectory of action, romance, and a hint of suspense.
As David fights to pursue his love for Elise, the Adjustment Bureau challenges his “free will”…or do they? Maybe David doesn’t have free-will in the first place. This is the question so ostensibly raised throughout the film. At one point, Terence Stamp’s character, Thompson (aka the Hammer), provocatively states, “You don’t have free-will, only the appearance of free-will.” And if the seemingly intrusive activities of the Adjustment Bureau correspond with reality, one must wonder whether or not the appearance of free-will is all we truly have. If so, is that enough?
The film offers the viewer an intriguing blend of free-will, soft determinism, and chance. In doing this, Nolfi has certainly accomplished his goal, which he stated in a recent Relevant Magazine interview,
I want the movie to be viewed by people whether religious or not or whatever religion they are. I want them to engage with the central question bringing their faith and views and grappling to the table. S o when they leave, the question of how much of your life is handled by outside forces and how much by you is key, and that has been around since the ancient Greeks. I just want to have people have a great time at the movies in a romantic thriller with a sci-fi tinge to it all, leaving with their own questions brought to the table.
But why does leaving with questions matter? Well, to put it simply, it brings the significance of moral activity into focus.
The entire debate on free-will is largely concerned with morality, will, and moral activity. Few people (if any) take interest in the debate because they have a real hankering to know whether or not they are freely choosing to put their shoes on in the morning. Menial actions such as these are of little concern. However, when morality comes into play, knowing whether or not one is free, determined, or plagued by the phenomena of chance becomes a big deal. Everyone seems to have a vested interest in morality, which is probably why a film like The Adjustment Bureau can get away with being released on the big screen; it has mass appeal.
Hopefully, everyone who watches the movie will leave having been encouraged to reflect on moral reality. After all, the apostle Paul claims that mankind’s purpose on earth is to feel around toward God, in the hopes that they might find him, and the moral dilemma (which is raised in the free-will debate) soundly places people in that position – considering their actions, the consequences of their actions, and the moral import of their actions in all of life. Here are his words,
[God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” – Paul, Acts 17:26-31
The Adjustment Bureau has a current rating of 7.2/10 on the Internet Movie Database (i.e. IMDb). So it seems that people are enjoying the engagement the film encourages.