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Vol. LXV, No. 10
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

LOVE CONQUERS ALL, EVEN GOD: The hopelessly in love couple David Norris (Matt Damon, left) and Elise Sellas (Mary Blunt} are desperately fleeing the angels sent by God to separate them because their love for each other is not a part of God’s master plan for their universe.

The Adjustment Bureau: Science Fiction Movie Pits Free Will against Predestination

Kam Williams

During his brief lifetime, the prolific Philip K. Dick wrote dozens of science fiction novels and well over a hundred short stories. Since his untimely death in 1982, ten of his works have been made into movies, most notably Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report.

The latest is The Adjustment Bureau, a surreal psychological thriller that co-stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. The movie is loosely based on Adjustment Team, a short story published in 1954 which was a cold war drama.

In the original story, God dispatches disembodied spirits to earth in order to ease East-West atomic tensions. But something as simple as a dog’s failure to bark on schedule sets in motion a destabilizing chain of events which threaten to destroy the impending accord between the superpowers.

An insurance salesman who failed to hear the dog bark leaves late for work and consequently tells something he witnessed to his wife. So, it falls to the angels to intervene to ensure that events unfold in accordance with God’s plans.

Directed by George Nolfi, The Adjustment Bureau, is a revision which renders the source material unrecognizable except for its supernatural elements. Now, instead of being married to each other, the protagonists are an eligible bachelor and a beautiful ballerina who meet quite by chance in a men’s room at the Waldorf Astoria.

Just past the point of departure, we find David Norris (Damon) practicing his concession speech after losing a race for the U.S. Senate. When wedding crasher Elise Sellas (Blunt) sheepishly emerges from a stall, the two immediately fall in love and proceed to embrace and kiss until they’re interrupted by the Congressman’s Chief of Staff (Michael Kelly). Before separating, David takes her phone number, fully intending to call her.

However, “The Chairman” has preordained a life for David as a prominent politician, a path which excludes Elise. Therefore, a quartet of ethereal emissaries sporting dapper felt fedoras are dispatched to the planet to prevent the pair from seeing each other again.

It takes a few years, but eventually, instead of a dog failing to bark, a lackadaisical angel (Anthony Mackie) falls asleep on a park bench. That leads to David and Elise meeting once again which reignites their passion for each other.

Following this incident, one of the heavenly emissaries introduces himself to David as his “case officer.” Archangel Richardson (John Slattery) explains that the function of the Adjustment Bureau is to enforce God’s master plan. He warns David not to pursue a relationship with Elise and that if he doesn’t constrain himself he will be given a lobotomy and his brain will be reprogrammed.

David, not surprisingly, remains determined to follow his heart, and what ensues is a game of cat-and mouse between a pair of love struck humans who are battling an army of angels who have an arsenal of supernatural powers at their command. The picture raises the basic question: Which side will win in a battle between free will and predestination?

Since the movie is an old fashioned Hollywood love story, it’s easy to guess how things turn out. Damon and Blunt generate plenty of chemistry along the way as they elude their captors by dashing in and out of a dizzying number of parallel universes.

Unfortunately, the story is undermined by the leap of faith the audience is expected to take in believing the concatenation of ludicrous contrivances that are employed to confound the Lord and his minions.

An entertaining, albeit somewhat blasphemous mindbender, in which love conquers all, even the will of God.

Good (2 stars). Rated PG-13 for sexuality, brief profanity, and a violent image. Running time: 99 minutes. Studio: Universal Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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