Christian Living


The Adjustment Bureau on Fate v. Free Will

Movie Info


David Norris is an ambitious politician who wasn't supposed to fall in love with ballet dancer Elise. To right this wrong, the Adjustment Bureau sends in their "agents of fate" to put both David and Elise back on their own paths. Now David must decide if he wants to fight fate.


PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image.


Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Thriller


March 4, 2011


Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Michael Kelly, Terence Stamp


George Nolfi


Universal Pictures


It’s the lifelong debate that keeps philosophers and theologians up at nights: Are our lives predetermined or the result of our choices alone?

This is the truth-seeking question filmmaker George Nolfi asks in his new film, The Adjustment Bureau. The keyword here is “asks”. A former philosophy student, Nolfi in no way wanted to offer his own answers in the sci-fi thriller starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada).

“I don't want anyoneto look at the movie through the lens of my particular beliefs...,” the first-time director says. “It's the role of the artist to propose various questions, generate discussions, but not to give many answers. There's certainly a place for free will and how the world should be, because it's meaningless if there is no place for it. But beyond that, how that balance is struck, that's for people to discuss, not me.”

The Adjustment Bureau Gets You Talking

Nolfi, who also wrote and produced The Adjustment Bureau, wants moviegoers to experience an entertaining film that can in turn start a conversation.

“The bigger questions, the ‘why are we here?’ questions, ‘what makes life meaningful? And how much can you choose your own course?’, have been an interest of mine since as long as I can remember,” Nolfi says.

For years, the screenwriter/turned director has read and studied philosophy, so the move to make a movie like The Adjustment Bureau was a logical one. Though he does have a faith background (his mother is Episcopal and his father, Catholic), Nolfi was never interested in making The Adjustment Bureau a faith-focused film.

“I don't want it to be read as a religious movie per se,” Nolfi says. “I want it to be read as a movie that is dealing in the realm of ultimate questions. And those questions are the questions that are at the root of spirituality and faith. But they're also what was at the root of Greek philosophers.”

Who is the Chairman?

Nolfi's faith history did influence the film in part, and can be seen in the character of the Chairman, the head of the Adjustment Bureau.

“The Chairman can do whatever,” Nolfi says, explaining the unseen character. “Whether you view it as a science-fiction-Chairman or a God-Chairman, the Chairman isn’t bounded. But the agents who are in the bureau have a whole bunch of rules because I wanted to seed the idea that the Chairman limited their power for a reason, because [he] values free will.”

In the film, Matt Damon’s character, David Norris, is guided through life by his handler, Harry, who only interferes when Norris is off track. At one point, Norris gets sidetrack by a ballet dancer who was never supposed to develop a relationship with him. Now that Norris is aware of the "agents" existence, he must decide to either fight fate or let life happen as planned.

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt Make a Choice

For Damon's and Blunt’s characters, the struggle is more personal than philosophical. It’s more about fighting against fate, for love.

“The crux of this is a love story. The whole thing hinges on that,” Damon says. “The Adjustment Bureau is just an obstacle to the love story. So rather than make a kind of naturalistic love story about people and have the conflict come from the real problems of a love affair, what you have is this love affair with absolutely no problems except for the fact that the Adjustment Bureau is in the way of them being together.”

If presented with the choice to either go for career or fight for love, Damon knows what he would do.

“I don’t see that as much of tough choice,” he says. “You can be with the woman that you love, who makes you incredibly happy. You can have a deep, wonderful relationship with her or you can have a really good career? That’s not a tough choice to me. Nor do I think it is a tough choice for [my character, David Norris]. Maybe that’s something that at the beginning of the movie he couldn’t imagine ever doing. But by the end, it’s kind of the obvious choice for him.”

Blunt agrees. Given the free will we do have, how could we possibly choose anything but love?

“I would absolutely say it’s not a tough call to choose love above ambition,” she says.

Though The Adjustment Bureau doesn’t give us concrete answers, it does compel us to value our free will. This takeaway is aptly summed up in the final voiceover of the film.

"Most people live life on the path we set for them, too afraid to explore any other. But once in a while people like you come along and knock down all the obstacles we put in your way. People who realize free will is a gift you never know how to use until you fight for it. I think that's the Chairman's real plan - that maybe one day we won't write the plan, you will." – The Adjustment Bureau

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