Sunday, March 06, 2011

Fate vs. Free Will

The newly released film, The Adjustment Bureau, confronts the eternal question of free will vs. predetermined fate. Do human beings exist in the confines of one or the other, or are both forces at work in each individual life?

Because this concept is a compelling one, and because I heard the director interviewed last week, I decided to see this movie. Was that fate or free will? There's no telling, but it was an entertaining decision. Matt Damon is pitch-perfect as David Norris, the charismatic political candidate who falls in love at first sight with the beautiful Elise, played with soulful enthusiasm by Emily Blunt.

However, their love affair is "off plan," according to the Adjustment Bureau enforcers. These mysterious, super-human beings control and direct our destinies. Whether they are angels, devils, or something altogether different is not addressed. But one thing is for certain--they can really ruin your day.

There are some humorous aspects to these creatures that I suspect are unintended. For example, they need to be wearing some kind of hat to have any powers at all--even a baseball cap will do. Water impedes their effectiveness, putting the viewer in mind of Oz's Wicked Witch of the West. Also, during the movie's innumerable chase scenes, the Bureaucrats are in constant search of which magical door to open next to continue pursuit of their target. For a film junkie like myself, that's too close to the Marx Brothers for serious viewing.

But the film moves at a rapid clip, with the action always layering towards the satisfying conclusion. Set in New York City, the exterior shots give a gritty feel for the city and some lovely panoramic scenes. While in the theater, I had the sense of watching a lengthy, upgraded episode of The Twilight Zone. "You unlock this door with the key of imagination..."

And don't forget your '50s style fedora.