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THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (2011) (***1/2)

Fate or chance, which rules our lives? Is there a higher power that is guiding our path or is everything just a series of random choices that lead us through our lives. Is it a combination of the two? The big moments are charted out, while we have the illusion of free will in the smaller choices. Is there some cosmic force that would stop us if we wandered off the path? These are some of the questions presented in this romantic fantasy thriller.

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Fate or chance, which rules our lives? Is there a higher power that is guiding our path or is everything just a series of random choices that lead us through our lives. Is it a combination of the two? The big moments are charted out, while we have the illusion of free will in the smaller choices. Is there some cosmic force that would stop us if we wandered off the path? These are some of the questions presented in this romantic fantasy thriller.

David Norris (Matt Damon, GREEN ZONE) was the youngest man ever elected to the House of Representatives. He's a heavy favorite for the senate, but an immature prank tanks his campaign. In the hotel bathroom, working on his concession speech, he meets dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA), who is hiding out from security because she crashed a wedding at the hotel. They have an instant connection. He gets her number. They share a passionate kiss. But the men in hats are going to intervene.

Mr. Mitchell (Anthony Mackie, THE HURT LOCKER) is an agent for the Chairman; some would call him an angel. He reports to Mr. Richardson (John Slattery, TV's MAD MEN), who reports to Mr. Thompson (Terence Stamp, THE COLLECTOR) and up the chain of command it goes. They are the guardians of the Chairman's Plan, which determines the fate of all human beings. The Chairman gave humans free will once and it resulted in World War I, the Great Depression and World War II in a 50-year span, so he took it away. Mr. Mitchell is to make Norris spill his coffee, but he falls asleep on the job and misses his window. This sets Norris in a different direction than the Plan, which includes him meeting Elise again on the bus.

In rare cases, the agents can intervene with a human. They tell Norris he can't see Elise, because it is against the Plan. But Norris doesn't like to be told what to do and he wants Elise. Fate be damned. That won't stop Mr. Richardson from putting every obstacle he can in Norris' way.

One of the keys to the film's success is the chemistry between Damon and Blunt. Rarely do we believe love at first sight in films, but it works here. Their first meeting in the bathroom is a wonderfully written scene from director George Nolfi, who based his screenplay on Philip K. Dick's short story ADJUSTMENT TEAM. We feel the connection between the two and see the potential.

Fate is such a cold idea. The idea that we have no control over our lives and we are just puppets in some cosmic play. This coldness is reflected in the agents who carry out their duties with relentlessness, never asking if what they are doing is right. They look like clones of the 1950s man in the gray suit. Mr. Mitchell is the exception. He has more feelings than most and tries to help Norris make sense of what is happening. On the flip side Mr. Thompson is ruthless. Known as the Hammer, he is not above violence to make his point. And there is always a square one reset in which a person's mind is wiped clean and everyone thinks he has gone mad. But even worse yet are the difficult choices he gives Norris. Will the man choice love or success for the both of them. It's an interesting comment on the choices we all make everyday. Is human impulse good or bad?

There is something truly romantic about someone fighting against fate to be with the person they love. What stronger force could there be working against them? But how do they win? That's the difficult question. I guess you'd have to ask the Chairman.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
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Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks