Monday, April 04, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau: Leprechauns in Hats

(Spoiler Alert)
In the movie The Adjustment Bureau, we are asked to believe in a world manipulated by angel-like beings (wearing hats) who cause little accidents or coincidences that keep our lives “on the plan.” The plan, one supposes, is God’s plan; but nothing so explicit is said.
The main character, David Norris (Matt Damon), is a young U.S. Representative running for Senate who meets (through an arranged coincidence) Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) who inspires him to make his best political speech ever. However, when another prearranged accident doesn’t happen (angel-like being literally sleeping on the job), David and Elise meet again and form an attachment that is not according to the plan. The rest of the movie plays out how the angel-like beings, using increasingly invasive tactics, attempt and eventually fail to keep David away from Elise.
David is helped along the way by Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie), the sleeping angel-like being who feels sorry for David and helps him beat the system. In the end, however, what makes David successful is his willingness to sacrifice everything (i.e. successful political career) for love, and Elise’s willingness to return similar self-sacrificing love. In the face of such self sacrifice, the “Chairman” (the God-like plan maker) rewrites the plan to include their love.
The movie plays with the concepts of free will and predestination/fate, and really it is more about fate than predestination. The angel-like beings behave much more like leprechauns than angels. That is, they play little tricks that make doing what you want to do, what is not according to their plan, more inconvenient--not impossible, as we see with David and Elise, but just more difficult. In the world of The Adjustment Bureau, just as in our everyday lives, fate is what happens when you do not push and strive for what you want to be. The “plan” is our life on autopilot.
Many of us confuse predestination with fate. Fate is just what happens, what the leprechauns plan, what chance dictates, what comes naturally from nature and nurture. Predestination, on the other hand, is God's calling to conform us to the image of Christ, to make real human beings out of us. Predestination is not what automatically happens. Predestination is a destiny we must choose, and not only choose but fight for. It is the destiny that existed in the mind of God when the first human being was created in the image of God. To use the language of Psalm 82, God created human beings to be gods (c.f. John 10:34,35), and gods determine their own fate.
Certainly one of fates that many choose is at the end of the path of least resistance: the plan of the leprechauns. Anyone who would be noble or magnanimous or loving quickly discovers that virtue is always inconvenient. Love requires sacrifice--and not a little. To break free from the plan, one must sacrifice everything, walk the narrow way, take up their cross and follow Christ, for whoever would save their life will lose it and whoever loses their life will find it.

I can generally recommend The Adjustment Bureau. It is an action romance that makes you think. Like most contemporary movies, it is not for everyone. The film is rated PG-13 for lots of passionate kissing and colourful language.

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