Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Is The Cosmic Plan For Your Life?

What would you do if you found out there was a mysterious “plan” for your life, but you didn't agree with what fate had in store for you? That’s the premise of the intriguing thriller The Adjustment Bureau (2011). David Norris (Matt Damon) is a popular congressman running for a Senate seat in New York. He ends up losing the race, and must give a concession speech. While preparing for the speech, he meets a carefree woman (who's crashed a wedding in the same building) and is captivated by her. She gives him the strength to go out and give an honest speech that helps him move ahead in the world, despite his loss in the race.

Some time later, a man named Harry Mitchell (who has been following David) is given an assignment: Make sure David spills coffee on himself on the way to work. But Harry misses his opportunity. David boards a bus, and runs into Elise (Emily Blunt), the woman he met earlier. The two strike up a conversation, and she gives David her phone number. He’s excited by the prospect of seeing her again, and heads off to his job, eager to tell his co-worker (and former campaign manager) about his meeting with her.

When David arrives at his office, everyone appears to be frozen in place. A mysterious team of people is walking around, wielding weird devices. He’s chased by the group, and taken to a warehouse. A man named Richardson (John Slattery of Mad Men) explains that he is deviating from “The Plan” and the team (including Harry) is here to set things back on track. The group is called “The Adjustment Bureau.”

They appear to be normal men in business suits and hats, but their job is to make sure people’s lives stay on the proper path, set out by “The Chairman.” They are to be able to predict events, and seem to have power over space & time. Richardson tells David he is not destined to be with Elise, and a different path is set out for both of them. They try to keep them apart, but David fights to make his own choices & control his own destiny. And Harry, who had been assigned to watch David, starts to doubt his role in the plan, and may hold the key to the couples' escape.

The movie raises some interesting questions. Is it better for man to have free will, or should we follow a cosmic “plan?” Are these “adjusters” angels, and is “The Chairman” God? This intelligent, well-written film lets the audience come up with its own answers. Damon & Blunt are well cast as the lovers fighting fate, and Terence Stamp (yep, General Zod from Superman II) is excellent as Thompson, another member of “The Bureau” brought in to deal with the issues David is causing by deviating from the plan. Thompson believes that if man has free will, it can only lead to disaster, as it has in the past, when we were allowed to control our own destinies.

Written & Directed by George Nolfi, the movie is based on a short story by the late Philip K. Dick. The celebrated science-fiction writer’s stories have also served as the basis for movies like Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), and Minority Report (2002). It’s a thinking person’s thriller, and a neat mix of science fiction, romance and action. If you’re looking for a thought-provoking change of pace, The Adjustment Bureau is a good choice. The film is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.

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