‘The Adjustment Bureau,’ Do You Have Freewill?


Based on or rather inspired by a Philip K. Dick story, The Adjustment Bureau asks if we truly have freewill and if we don’t, when we exercise our right to freewill do we destroy our destinies?The trailer features Matt Damon as Davide Norris, an up and coming politician who, through a chance encounter, meets a ballerina named Elise Sellas played by actress Emily Blunt. When he continues to run into her and falls in love strangers intervene and inform him that this love is not meant to be.

The idea of strangers showing up at your door and telling you your fate versus you choosing it is unsettling. Especially in America. We don’t let anyone tell us what we’re going to do–we’re very obstinate. The question always persists that if there was a plan, how would you know what the plan is unless someone told you? Then to add to the confusion, even if someone told what the plan was and you veered away from it–maybe that was the plan and the person who thought they knew the plan was only part of the plan. Almost seems like a bad vaudeville comedy routine.

Freewill is the excuse for God’s plan going south (literally to hell). We humans apparently chose freewill instead of the garden of perfection and it has always bothered me about apocalyptic Christians waiting for the second earth or rather the second time around–what’s to prevent freewill from interfering again? Just throwing Satan in a lake of fire? With an eternity to change one’s mind or just simply make a mistake in judgment, Christians could ruin the new eden by eating the apple again. Or maybe by accepting Christ, you lose your freewill.

If you want to obtain a nasty headache grab a book on Calvinism and a separate one on Arminianism. Then read them at the same time, alternating books for every chapter.

Despite the word wrangling, I don’t believe in predestination. I’m sure you could make a good philosophical case for it, but how would you ever know if it is right? I know director M. Shymalan likes to tie predestination into his movies–Signs (2002) is an example, but the events that lead to each other to supposedly ward off invaders are rather cruel. Does a woman have to die in a horrible car accident to provide a message to defeat the final alien? It makes for a great narrative, but also makes one feel helpless to have any control over their lives. In the final scene of Signs, why couldn’t Merrill, the former baseball player, simply figure it out for himself to smash all the glasses of water to destroy the alien intruder? Or better yet, why not make the water correlation and use a hose or bucket of water to splash the alien? Humans like to fill in the blanks for the stories in their lives with miraculous coincidences to either make them more exciting or simply not give enough credit to our own abilities to discover what it is we have to do (without interference from God or fate).

I’m free to make all of my decisions and plenty of them will get me into trouble. There isn’t such a thing as complete control or complete freewill as our environment and other people do affect us, but I can decide to go make myself a sandwich right now (and sneak a brownie and damn my diet) if I so choose to do–which I do. How’s that for “deep”?

5 thoughts on “‘The Adjustment Bureau,’ Do You Have Freewill?

  1. Interesting thoughts. I am looking forward to see this flick. For one, I’m hoping Matt Damon can get back to what made him so good a few years ago. But I’m also interested in the free will debate and a modern spin. Hopefully they don’t blow it.

    And yes, you’ve prescribed a great way to get a headache!

  2. I saw a special screening of this film last night. The movie on the surface is very well done.
    However there are a few things that concerned me. Throughout the movie there’s a constant beating of the drum about “the book”. It’s hard to not see that as a reference to the Bible and the problem lies in that one message of the movie is to put aside what the book says because as Matt Damon’s character states, “How could this be wrong”. What that communicates is a sense that passion trumps the Bible. For people who don’t believe the Bible all this does is reinforce a “look out for #1” mentality but for believers it has the potential to slowly chip away at a persons obedience to God’s Word in the name of passion and your own skewed sense of right and wrong. I think the Directors/Producers of this movie need to be aware of the fact that the Christian community might have some serious issues with this movie. I don’t know that this message about the Bible is intentional but it’s there nonetheless.

  3. With that kind of theme, even a non-Christian would be able to relate as long as there is spiritual awareness.

  4. I just saw this movie. It has a deeply anti-Christian theme. I am disturbed to see Christian journalists being so neutral about it. They are being distracted by the ostensible ‘philosophical’ elements of the story and not seeing the obvious. What people need to focus on is not the surface theme of ‘free will’, but the emotional tone of the movie. I am a former screenwriter and here’s what I see, STRUCTURALLY, in the movie: the bad guys are all angels, and “the Chairman” (i.e. God) is the hidden villain who is trying to destroy the love of Matt Damon’s life. The only ‘good’ angel is the one who is secretly going against the will of ‘the chairman’. The ‘angels’ and the ‘chairman’ are preventing the hero from being ‘Free”. They have a ‘book’ and a ‘plan’, and these are all BAD THINGS. The hero chooses to follow ‘his heart’ and not the evil ‘plan’ of the heartless ‘chairman’. Yet all his ‘heart’ has told him to do is to sleep with a woman he barely knows. Really, this is a completely classic modern anti-Christian theme: Christians are a bunch of rule-following creeps preventing existential heroes from following their dreams/dream girls, and what you ought to do, above all, is what you FEEL. Of course, the TRUTH is that it’s Satan who has a plan he tries to manipulate people into following, and it’s God who wants us to be truly free, and it’s following Jesus, not your heart, that gives you that existential freedom. Christians should avoid overthinking this piece of black propaganda and just focus on the obvious: God’s loyal agents are portrayed as heinous, mind-sucking villains. Gee, where have we heard that before? Satan’s propaganda is not that sophisticated: he follows the Keep It Simple and Stupid rule. So be smart and avoid this movie. Like virtually all Hollywood movies, it comes straight from the evil one.

  5. I agree with the guy above me. I interpreted the film, as the Chairmain being Satan who has sent his evil demonic entities to manipulate humanity. When matt damon was on the boat with one of them, he states that they are not angels, but they are also not human but they live longer. They also have doubt about the chairman’s plans, indicating that the chairmain is not god. how can god’s will be overcome by a human, so that he must change it. chairman is satan pretending he is interveing for the sake of humanity when really he wants to lead them astray like in the garden of eden.

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