Saturday, March 05, 2011

"The Adjustment Bureau": do immortal angels guide our lives and prevent us from carrying out our own 'free will'?

The idea that there exist “angels” or “covert agents” that have “powers”, to take short-cuts through space-time, and live indefinitely without aging (or perhaps become fixed as “angels” when wise older men) certainly is interesting, and if so, they probably could mediate the choices of the rest of us.

Such is a partial premise of George Nolfi’s new film for Universal,  “The Adjustment Bureau”, based on Philip K. Dyck’s story “Adjustment Team”.  

Mankind, the angels say, were allowed free will for a few hundred years after the Roman Empire fell (bad timing), and the Dark Ages resulted. Same experiment around 1909 or so (who knows, with the Mahler Ninth), and the result was the two world wars, fascism, the Holocaust, and finally the Cuban Missile Crisis (which I appreciate the film’s mentioning).

So, the angels “channel” people toward certain results, which may mean conventional success for some people, and denial of artistic ambition for others. In fact, the angels interfere with those delicate balances of career and family, sometimes actually aiming for career. The angels want David Norris ( perfect Matt Damon, himself just 40), despite his impulsiveness, to become a GOP president some day, and they want Elise (Emily Blunt) to become a ballet star without the dangers of “Black Swan”.  If they have each other, they won’t do their “work”, because they won’t need to, becoming too human and too conjugal (aiming for “the natural family”).

I drove to Rave’s Fairfax Corner to see it in DLP digital, almost like Imax. The movie is shot in flat 1.85:1, and the physical look of the film is understated given its fantastic premise. Yes, there are “doors”, where the authorized can jump from lower Manhattan to the new Yankee Stadium outfield fence, back to the Statue of Liberty (actually in New Jersey, and the scene there does not resemble the climax of “Saboteur”).   There more previews today than ever, and a very large stadium auditorium was almost sold out for the twilight show Saturday.   The screen here was very large, and properly configured for all aspect ratios.  Rave bough this complex from National Amusements, and, sorry to say, the lobby piano is gone, although the rest of the place is nice, with a couple of separate eateries to share concession revenues, a much more progressive arrangement and offering consumers much more choice.  

And it’s choice that this movie is about. In fact, it at least poses the anti-libertarian question, is choice a basic human right? The outcome of the story is certainly “libertarianesque”.  But, the reality is, most people have their lives determined by the needs and limitations of people around them as well as by their own.  

One of the funniest lines is when Matt's character tells Emily's, "they will reset me."

There is a speech early on where Matt Damon’s character, before losing a Senate election, makes a remark about clip-on ties with colors chosen for him by consultants (actually by – guess what – the Adjustment Team), and even the question of whether he should polish his shoes is worthy of mention. A little scruff is like a little gray hair; it might make him look more human. A friend today sent a tweet about shining shoes (with “yfrog” picture), which now seems like a steganographic way to send a message that he had just seen this film, and found the "free will" challenge important.
Here’s the Facebook site.  I got a warning from Webroot on Universal’s official site (named after the movie) about lyricsdownload, which might be a “false positive”.

Note: the still pictures here are all taken by me (not from film).

And don't forget: Matt Damon told Piers Morgan that he wants to direct movies now. He loves playing politicians, but not being one. 

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