Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

01 Jun 2012

(Movie - 2011) The Adjustment Bureau directed by: George Nolfi

(Reaction) Destined to Decide by: Patrick Shane Diaz

Adjustment Bureau is a film that centers on the conflict between destiny and free will. The film features agents of the Adjustment Bureau that steer humanity according to the Plan written by the Creator. These agents manipulate destiny and in effect give the audience the notion of a free will under controlled circumstances.

David Norris is a politician, young and driven. He is the type of person who goes after what he wants, completely oblivious to destiny. He believes that destiny is in his control, built and molded by his decisions. Though being an orphan, he rises up to Congress at a young age, reinforcing the decision based free will that David uses as motivating factor in life. His career further denotes this behaviour, for politicians are calculated, decision making professionals.

Elise Sellas is a ballerina who catches the eye of David during his campaign for senate. She is a person driven by destiny, a subscriber to the what happens, happens mantra that dictates her action in accordance to career, and love life decisions. Her profession as a dancer shows this, as well as her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, wherein she does what she does because it is meant to be.

In a scene, Elise challenges David to a foot race wherein they are to go out if David won. She also waited for David's call, causing them not to be in contact him for years. This shows that she waits for destiny to happen, rather than take action in things that she wants to happen in her life. This is stressed when David drags her in his journey, in the process having to explain to her the Bureau and its function. It seemed like it was more of David's decision, with Elise tagging along, waiting for destiny to unfold.

The plot begins when an agent ends up sleeping during his watch to prevent David and Elise from meeting on a bus one day. The Plan having said that David and Elise need to be kept apart was explained by saying that David would fulfil his destiny to become President if he did not have Elise in his life. Why was Elise portrayed as the hindrance? It can be seen that it was due to the fact that David started exercising his free will every time he was with Elise.

The irony of the plot was that it was destiny that made the agent fall asleep during his watch. The Bureau saw this as a mistake, and attempted to correct this deviation from the plan. Once more, the issue of free will and destiny was put to the test. What the agents and the Bureau did not foresee is that it was the voice of destiny that made David and Elise see each other once more.

The question is why was there a change in the Plan? If David was not supposed to be with Elise, and meeting her would change his goals in life, then why was he chanced to meet her in the first place? The answer could be that the whole plot, David going against the Bureau to be with Elise was destiny going through its course, making them fight for their love.

This can explain the rewriting of the Plan to allow them to be together. Once more, it shows a conflict between free will and destiny. The free will of the lovers changed their destiny, changed the Plan. Destiny having been used to explain the chances of their seeing each other, is stumped by their free will in choosing to stay together.

Having these two ideas influence the plot of the film, the conflict is what holds more important? What is the real reason for the events that unfold in the film? It is possible that it is a mixture of both, as things happened as they were meant to be, acted upon by the decisions of David and Elise. Honestly, it is impossible to say, as the audience may side with destiny, then change their minds to free will as a driving factor.

Though most of the decisions were made by David, the critical one was made by Elise to believe him, in the scene wherein he asks her to take his hand, and follow him to change the Plan. Though Elise was the character molded by destiny, it was David who was hit by destiny when he discovered the Plan and the agents of the Bureau.

One of the oddities of the film was the drawing of the power from a hat, and the using of doorways. Upon consideration, the hat could be a metaphor for the mind, wherein one makes decisions. This once more is an irony, for the agents of destiny, draw upon free will itself their power. To create destiny, they need free will, which in effect contradicts that which they create.

The agent who fell asleep in the bench that fateful day in the park, the one that sparked the whole plot of the film, experienced destiny firsthand. However, it was his free will that made him help David to change the Plan. He also leads the audience into thinking, is he the Creator? For one that controls destiny, he uses much of free will, and as he is the one that holds out the Plan to David at the end, it could be that he is the one that rewrote it.

It is possible that though the falling asleep was involuntary and accidental, it was meant to happen, so that David can meet Elise, and make his free will decision to be with her. It is also a free will decision on the agent's part, for it was his decision to close his eyes. This is where the two ideas merge, for it was both that sparked the whole plot.

There was one pivotal scene wherein David just had to see Elis dance, and the decision to be together will be sealed. The question was, why didn't the Bureau stop controlling David knowing that he saw Elise already? Were they exercising free will to go against destiny? This could be because in doing so, David would fight for his love for Elise, and in the end result in the changing of the Plan. In seeing Elise dance, David made the decision to fight, as he was destined to do so.

Though contrasting, destiny and free will come together in this movie, which shows that both go hand in hand, for the Creator that writes destiny, succumbs to the free will of David and Elise. In the same manner, the agents of destiny exercise free will while implementing the Plan. However, as free will is used by most characters it can be seen in a way that though free will is exercised, this is what is destined to happen. Destiny dictated that David and Elise use free will to control their fate, as it did when the agent fell asleep on the bench. Destiny and free will usually conflict each other, yet the film was able to incorporate both into one plot, so as to depict the importance of both, as seen in one perspective.

The Plan may seem to overpower free will, yet looking at it, free will in a way dictates the Plan. Since it is not explained as to why there is a Plan, and how it is written, it can be assumed that free will decisions affect it, change it. It is more of a cycle, free will dictating the Plan, and free will decisions made as destined to be made.


The Adjustment Bureau must be so good that they achieved their objective, which was to make David and Elise end up together. Then again, it was the Creator who planned it all along.

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