Interpreting a godless Adjustment Bureau

In The Adjustment Bureau David Norris (Matt Damon) discovers an organization of people devoted to controlling the destinies of the human race. The film follows Norris as he tries to thwart the organization and write his own path through the world. Given the subject matter of free will vs determinism, it’s easy to understand why viewers might interpret The Bureau (and it’s Chairman) as representing God within the context of the film. Not only do I believe this interpretation to be incorrect, but I believe that if you hold this opinion, you’ve missed the entire point of the film.

Yes, The Adjustment Bureau is essentially a group of all-seeing people who have the ability to affect change in our world using “power” beyond what the average person can wield. And yes, they’re governed by an omniscient “Chairman” who has written out a plan for every person on the planet. You’re right, that does sound a lot like a common depiction of God and Angels. However, you could also draw a lot of comparisons between Christ and Neo in the Matrix. Though, I bet you’d be hard pressed to find someone who actually believes that the character of Neo was intended by The Wachowski [siblings] to represent and be interpreted as Jesus Christ.

The truth of the matter is that this film never, at any point, attempts to assert that the Bureau has anything to do with God. In fact, there is actually a scene where Norris asks one of the bureau workers if he “is an angel”, to which he replies “We’ve been called that. We’re more like case officers…”. If you ask me, that line alone makes the God argument pretty null and void. But as I mentioned at the start, that revelation isn’t what the film is all about.

The Adjustment Bureau isn’t about the question of “who?”. It’s not even about the question of “why?”. It isn’t even an argument over whether our lives are governed by free will or determinism. No, The Adjustment Bureau is a thought experiment that proposes that even in a world where free will exists, outside forces can change circumstances or trigger events that, even for individuals operating of their own free will, can and do alter the course of lives and paths that we travel on.

I believe that The Adjustment Bureau is Science Fiction first, and Philosophy second. Whether you’re a believer, an atheist, or something in between, the film raises some interesting questions. None of which, are “is there a God?”. So before you judge the film based on the lenses through which you viewed it, take a look at the questions it’s really asking.

posted by Christopher Schnese