A Review by Shlomoh Sherman
Euclid, Ohio - March 16, 2011

Director: George Nolfi
Writers: George Nolfi (screenplay), Philip K. Dick (short story "Adjustment Team")
Tagline:Your Fate Has Been Adjusted
Genres: Romance - Sci-Fi - Thriller
Stars: Matt Damon and Emily Blunt
Plot: The affair between a politician and a ballerina is affected by mysterious forces keeping the lovers apart.
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA) - Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image.
Run Time: 106 min
Release Date: March 4, 2011 (USA)
Also Known As: Os Agentes do Destino
Filming Locations: Hilltop Hanover Farm, Yorktown Heights, New York, USA

To tell the truth, I wasn't sure that I would write a review of this film because the story is somewhat corny, predictable, and has breaks in logic. Even a sci-fi or fantasy film should have inherent logic.

When I asked Cindy if she wanted to see it, she said she would be interested because it appeared to be a cross between FRINGE and X-FILES which we both like. My personal opinion is that both of those sci-fi TV programs have more inherent logic than ADJUSTMENT BUREAU.

However I chose to write a review because, aside from the presentation of the story details, the film presents interesting philosophical axioms which I'd like to address.

First, the storyline:

David Norris, a politician running for the US Senator from New York, meets Elise Sellas, an aspiring ballet dancer in the men's room of a hotel where he is to deliver a campaign speech. Almost immediately, as though it were destiny, they fall deeply in love.

But then, mysterious men appear with a mission to keep the lovers apart. Norris soon inadverdently learns of the existence of these agents of the Adjustment Bureau, the agency that, according to the dialogue, makes things right. Norris asks one of the agents who befriends him, against company policy, what the Adjustment Bureau is all about and why the bureau wants to keep him and Elise apart. The agent, Harry Mitchell, tells him that "Some people have refered to us as angels and there is always a reason that we do what we do." Another agent, Thompson, informs Norris that he, Norris, is destined to become president of the United States and that Elise is destined to become a world famous ballerina. But these things will only happen if they lead separate lives, apart from each other. Only then can Norris become the American president who can, at last, bring real peace to the world.
The movie review at IMDB asks "Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us?" It fails to ask if we really have free will, which is THE question that Norris asks Harry Mitchell, whom I speculate to be an incarnation of the angel Michael.

Mitchell tells Norris that the Director, presumably God Almighty, gave man free will and almost immediately took it away till after the the Roman Empire had been around for a few centuries. At that point, free will was once again freely given, and the sad results were the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, the Crusades, after which free will was once again withdrawn, only to be restored in 1910, after which occured the First World War, the Great Depression, the Second World War, the Holocaust, and the ever looming threat of nuclear destruction of the planet. Once again free will was withdrawn which allowed the Cold War to end. But really, if the withdrawal of free will causes relative calm on earth, what about recent Muslim terrorism? Unfortunately that's not addressed.

Once Norris discloses the existence of the Bureau to Elise and tells her why their relationship is having its problems, both of them attempt to thwart the Bureau's plans. I will not be a spoiler and disclose the details of their resistance or the outcome of the film. If you are interested, please see the film or wait for the DVD.

At the start of this review, I said that I wanted to address the philosophical axioms that the story of the Adjustment Bureau presents. Although never directly stated, it is obvious that the Bureau and its agents [all male - I didn't notice any female agents] represent divine celestial forces which run the universe created by the Director. Our traditonal religions, Judaism and Christianity, have told us that mankind has free will and that people determine their own destinty, apart from unexpected accidents.

The official party line of the Jewish religion is that God foresees all things yet free will is given. That sounds like man's future is determined by what God sees but to me it can also mean that God sees, but does not determine what man will choose to do. Yet our faiths also tell us that everything that happens is God's will. So is His will what we determine for ourselves with our God-given free will, or does He really determine it for us and tell us that we have free will just to pacify us while HE actually runs the show?

It is an interesting coincidence that I am studying Apocalyptic at this time. The Apocalypsis of both Judaism and Christianity states that our history is predetermined, and will lead eventually to an End-Time, the events over which he have no power to change. Sin, Evil, Demonism, Satan, Armageddon, Gog and Magog, Messianic outbreak, final Punishment, final Redemption, are all out of our hands as a pre-written script, and this is pretty much what the story of the Adjustment Bureau is telling us although it doesn't go into too much detail.

As a Jew, I have never really been in touch with the Apocalyptic Tradition until now. Apocalypsis is more the dimension of Christianity. Judaism concentrates more on the TORAH and prophetic traditons which tell us we are accountable for how responsibly or irresponsibly we act. The Rabbis tell us to avoid and ignore Apocalypsis because in this age, it will get us into trouble as it already has several times in the past [the Zealot Revolt, Bar Kochba, Shabtai Zvi].

All this may be true but it occurs to me that even the prophets, who preach responsibility of action, also SUBTLY tell us that man may be incapable of right actions in his present state.

Just as an example, the prophet Ezekiel says in two places that Israel [which, by extension, also includes all mankind] will just keep doing the wrong thing by their own free will UNLESS God Himself brings about an inner change of heart - takes away their free will -

Ezekiel 11:18,19 -
They [the Israelites] will return to [Israel] and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God

Ezekiel 36:26
16 Again the word of the LORD came to me: 17 “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. 18 So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. 19 I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions... (free will)
24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Hey this may sound great. Man will finally do the right thing. But the prophet is telling is that in order for that to happen, God Himself will have to get inside of us and make "adjustments".

I am sure that the ctreators of THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU did not intend to get as deep as I have become in this review. They just wanted to make an eerily interesting film with top stars that would gross a nice income. So what? I turned down my critical faculties and was entertained by the movie and then on the way home, Cindy and I generated our own religious commentary and because of her questions and insights, I decided to write this review. i hope you liked it.

  Matt Damon  ...  David Norris
  Emily Blunt  ...  Elise Sellas
  Chuck Scarborough  ...  Himself
  Jon Stewart  ...  Himself
  Capt. Gregory P. Hitchen  ...  U.S. Coast Guard Officer
  Darrell Lenormand  ...  Upstate Farmer
  Kar  ...  Political Consultant
  Michael Kelly  ...  Charlie Traynor
  RJ Konner  ...  Political Consultant
  Susan D. Michaels  ...  Reporter
  Anthony Mackie  ...  Harry Mitchell
  Terence Stamp ... Thompson
  Gregory Lay  ...  Albert, Campaign Aide  
  Lauren Hodges ... Robyn, Campaign Aide
  James Carville ... Himself
  Mary Matalin ... Herself
  John Slattery ... Richardson
  Amanda Warren ... Senior Campaign Aide
  Anthony Ruivivar ... McCrady
  Sandhi Santini ... Norris Supporter
  Laurie Dawn ... Norris Supporter
  Christine Lucas ... Christine, Charlie's Assistant
  Betty Liu ... Herself
  Jim Edward Gately ... Man in Madison Square Park
  Don Hewitt ... Bus Driver
  Jennifer Ehle ... Brooklyn Ice House Bartender
  Johnny Cicco ... Johnny from Red Hook
  Pedro Pascal ... Maitre D’ Paul De Santo
  Peter Epstein ... Taxi Driver
  Kirsty Meares ... Police Sergeant
  Sandi Carroll ... Orthopedic Surgeon
  Michael Bloomberg ... Himself

Damon wears a baseball cap with the letter "F," standing for Fordham University where some of the movie was filmed.
The names of the three main members of the Adjustment Bureau are Thompson, Richardson, and Harry: a play on the term Tom, Dick, and Harry, which is slang for any anonymous persons.

Goofs: Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers):
After their second interview, Jon Stewart calls David Norris, "Kevin Norris".  
At the end of his first meeting with David, Thompson calls Elise "Alyssa".
Just before Elise sprains her ankle, there is a long shot of the performers dancing, clearly showing someone else in Emily Blunt's place.
Anachronism: The first of David's appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart takes place in 2007 or 2008, and the clip included in the film's montage is in wide-screen. The Daily Show did not tape episodes in wide-screen high-definition until 2010, around the time of David's second appearance on the show.
When David watches Elise's performance where she sprains her ankle, she is wearing gray boy-shorts underneath her red dress. After she injures herself and is at the hospital, she is now wearing gray capri leggings visible under her dress.

Soundtracks: "MR. CORRECT" Written and Performed by They Might Be Giants [Courtesy of They Might Be Giants and Idlewild Recordings]

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