The Adjustment Bureau: Choice, Free Will, and Predestination

Download PDF

Adjustment BureauI just saw Matt Damon’s recent sleeper gem, The Adjustment Bureau (March 2011). Like a lot of other good speculative fiction and science fiction films, this one was based on yet another Philip K. Dick short story (“The Adjustment Team”), which first appeared in Orbit Science Fictionin 1954. The story is a fascinating take on predetermination, choice and free will, and how things might play out if there were indeed a “Divine Plan” – and someone chose to deviate from it.

Politician David Norris (Damon) stumbles into an encounter with men in suits and hats who are doing strange things to people he knows: they are “adjusting” his boss, nudging his thought processes so that his rational decision making will stick to “the Plan”. The Plan is the guidebook and blueprint, and these “adjusters” work for “the Chairman” (who humanity has “many names” for) to keep everything on track. They nudge here, alter an event there, so people do not stray too far from the path marked out for them. We glimpse the Plan now and then in the books the adjusters carry: it’s an intriguing image with moving dots and branching decision pathways, reminiscent of Harry Potter’s secret map, but unlike Potter’s map, it doesn’t just show where people are going, but where they are supposed to go.

the plan 150x150 The Adjustment Bureau: Choice, Free Will, and Predestination (Review)Adjusters make sure that happens, even though we learn that at times the Chairman has rewritten the Plan, leaving odds and ends not necessarily reconciled – like the compulsion Norris has to be with dancer Elise (Emily Blunt), a vestige of earlier Plans where they were indeed meant to be together. Their burning attraction and continuing efforts to connect are not something the Bureau can control; when random chance intrudes to help Norris find the mystery woman he is so drawn to, it turns out that chance, also, is a factor the adjusters are powerless over. But this version of the Plan holds different futures for them, and the Adjusters are here to make sure they don’t step off the path.

Read the full review here.

 Subscribe in a reader

Did you enjoy this post? Why not leave a comment below and continue the conversation, or subscribe to my feed and get articles like this delivered automatically to your feed reader.


No comments yet.

Leave a comment