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DIRECTOR: George Nolfi RELEASE DATE: March 4, 2011 RATING: PG-13
CAST: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt et al.
// review by Beverley

Adjust yourself and relax in your bureau...

My sister recently recommended The Adjustment Bureau to me on the basis of its philosophical content. I was reluctant to watch because it seemed like just another dumb shoot-run-avoid-explosion action flick, but since I had made the same assumptions about Fight Club and had been proven wrong, I decided to give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised.

The Adjustment Bureau stars a politician, David Norris, known for his unconventional sincerity and a ballet dancer, Elise Sellas, whom he loves. I scoffed at the beginning, as already there were two highly gendered and two dimensional characters, a sign my expectations of a plotless action flick were soon to be fulfilled. Alas, their love is not meant to be! David (no relation to Chuck) is, in fact, violently confronted by men in suits who tell him so in a rather hostile way. The audience is left to wonder who these strange men with alternate plans are, and it is gradually implied that these men are rather unconventional, bureaucratic, divine agents. With the help of one rebellious agent, David finds out the secrets of this group and their future shifting deterministic scheme. He and his lady love must confront this theistic bureau and even scramble to the top to contest their freedom to love one another against the divine plan that holds them apart.

I had a lot of fun with the determinist/free will plot conflict, and the existentialist ending where the narrator suggests that the real plan is for whoever is capable to break the bonds of determinism and grab control of their own life, but beyond this I also enjoyed the films play with bureaucratic themes. For example, every member of the bureau was an older, white male except the one agent who rebelled against the system. The setting and wardrobe associated with the bureau also played heavily with bureaucratic themes, including grey suits and large offices. In some surprising ways, the bureaucratic office model it well with traditional understandings of theistic structures: paternalistic, determined, orderly and controlled, the corporate American culture of the office was a surprisingly well thought out blend with traditional Christian theology.

I also really enjoyed the acting in this film, and although the main characters were very gendered, they made David and Elise still seem like real human beings with spunk and complexity. Cinematography was also impressive, as in the beginning shots felt more structured and controlled whereas near the end the swift and unexpected movements of the camera lead to a feeling of less control and more freedom, congruent with the themes of the film. Overall, it was a very enjoyable flick.


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