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Since we are big Matt Damon fans and since there have been no good releases for months, Sherrylee and I were really looking forward to The Adjustment Bureau which opened in our area tonight. We were disappointed. The acting is not bad, the special effects barely special enough to be noticed, and the dialogue worked ok, but the film overall was too big an idea for too little a movie.

I won’t spoil it for you, but even from the trailers you can figure out that the plot revolves around a young politician David Norris (Matt Damon) who falls in love with a ballerina (Natalie Cook).  Because a continued romance is not part of “The Plan,” a squad of men in hats starts intervening in their lives to make sure they never meet again.

Inadvertently the adjustments are messed up, the couple meets again “accidentally,” and the rest of the story is about their trying to find each other, hold on to each other, and ultimately choose each other–or not.

The film is a fairly inane romance, wrapped in a very artificial theological cloak! It’s not as if the questions of free will and/or determinism are not almost a standard part of cinema’s repertoire.. Some recent similarly romantic films that you might remember are Serendipity (2001), and 500 Days of Summer (2009).

In fact, manipulating reality is the essence of the cinematic art, so choices—or non-choices—which are also choices—or to place it in theological terms, free will or determinism–are not far removed from any film’s narrative—in the same way free will and/or determinism lie embedded in every human action’s cause and effect.  But, now I’m getting deeper than the film deserves.

If you want to test the theological prowess of your date for this movie, you might try the following questions!!

1.The Adjustment Bureau assumes that the Chairman’s plan is not comprehensive. In other words, some things are directed to happen according to the plan, but other things just happen by accident.  Can free will and determinism exist in the same world side by side?

2. Is David Norris’ choice of submitting to The Plan the same as the biblical choice of submitting to the will of God?

3. “The Chairman” seems to have the obedience of his staff, but what seems to be lacking in them is any sense of relationship, anything resembling faith, trust, or love.  How do these emotions change the debate between free will and determinism?

4. Multiple plans seem to exist as if the Chairman’s plan is based on current knowledge and contemporary events. Many Christians have this same view of God’s involvement in the world, i.e., that He limits his foreknowledge to the present and limits his actions to that which is solicited prayerfully by his people.  Are there really many different outcomes possible to human history?

5. The final message seems to be that the goal of the whole Bureau, from top to bottom, is to educate the human race to make good choices. Once people learn to make good choices, then the need for determined direction becomes moot.  Do you find this to be a Christian viewpoint?

That’s all the space this film deserves.  It’s not a bad date movie. But if you are easily irritated by faulty theology or shallow philosophy, maybe you ought to read a good book instead!

 

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