The Source for Youth Ministry

Movie Reviews
by Jonathan McKee

Adjustment Bureau, The (06/21/2011)

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image.

Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp…

Directed by George Nolfi (his first time directing)

Jonathan's Rating: Rental

Do we really have free will…or is God a colossal puppeteer manipulating the strings of all of mankind?

The Adjustment Bureau compels you to wrestle with this dilemma, but not at the expense of character development and storyline. Audiences will enjoy the romance and nonstop action of the film, but still leave the theatre wondering, Are there any true “accidents”?

The movie is really a love story between politician David Norris (Damon) and a ballerina Elise Sellas (Blunt). On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, David pursues Elise despite mysterious forces keeping the lovers apart.

My 13-year-old daughter and I saw a screening of this film together on a daddy-daughter date night. We both really enjoyed it, especially the love story.

George Nolfi, a seasoned espionage writer (The Bourne Ultimatum, The Sentinel, Ocean’s Twelve), brought his own screenplay to life for his directorial debut. Nolfi created likable characters and kept audiences at the edge of their seats, yet I don’t know if he has learned how to put icing on the cake yet. I wasn’t completely satisfied with how he wrapped up the film. I don’t necessarily need a happy ending or the film to be gift wrapped in a nice neat bow…but I have to believe it. I felt like this film didn’t really deliver at the end (happenstancely, I thought that The Bourne Ultimatum and Ocean’s Twelve were each the weakest in those trilogies.)

I still think that the performances were strong and the story will capture the hearts of most audiences. Not to mention, the underlying premise might jumpstart some interesting discussion for many walking away from the film. Definitely worth the rental.

I brought my 13-year-old daughter with me and didn’t regret it, although we squirmed in our seats a little when the filmmakers decided to throw in the typical PG-13 “no nudity” sex scene—another typical example of “we’ve dated twice now…it’s time to have sex, right?” Something parents need to talk with their kids about. A few instances of strong language too.

Conversation Starter
Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):

Q: What’s the message/theme of this movie?

A: This film proposes that God, in whatever form, is stepping into our lives and controlling our “will” to keep things running smoothly. It’s the age old “free will” argument. (John Calvin, look out!)

Q: How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to this movie?
A: Does God give us choice? Does he intervene?

The movie seems to imply that God steps in if we are going to mess things up too bad. One only has to pick up the paper and read the headlines any given day to realize that such a premise is ridiculous. God has given mankind the freedom to choose their path, and sadly, we’ve really botched things up. It truly reveals our huge need for Christ and his forgiveness.

God, in his love for us, decided not to be a puppeteer controlling our every movement. But at the same time, he is in control and knows what we will choose. Every single one of us who chooses Him—he knew that we would. He’s the author behind it all. Yes, in other words: we choose, and whatever we chose, was his choice.

Realize, that if you don’t understand this—that’s good! You shouldn’t. He’s God and you’re human. It would be like looking up at the night sky and trying to fathom that the universe you see only a glimpse of before your eyes…goes on forever! Just like a God who has no beginning and no end. We can’t even comprehend that. Before you let that worry you, ask yourself, “Do you want a God who is so small and simple that you can understand everything about Him? Or would you prefer a God so big and mighty that there is no way you fathom Him in all his complexities? I’ll take the latter please.

When watching this movie I have the following reactions:
  • I’m glad that our God isn’t some unreachable God who we can never talk with. God wants a personal relationship and we can reach out to Him anytime in prayer and he’ll listen to us.

  • I’m glad that God isn’t a God who isn’t trying to arrange marriages for us. Our God isn’t concerned with which way we turn when we get to a stop sign. He doesn’t care if we turn right—he wants us to do right. All of scripture talks about doing what is merciful, just and right (Micah 3:6).

  • God doesn’t send a team of men wearing hats to control us—whether we like it or not. Instead, God sends us a helper when we put our trust in Him. If we trust God, then we give him (the Holy Spirit) control of our life. When we submit to His control, then he guides us and helps us choose what is right.

  • The greatest of these is love (I Corinthians 13). In the conclusion of the film, love was the right decision to make. (Side note: some people could twist this truth and try to apply love to immoral situations: adultery, homosexual relationships. “But I love my house cleaner more than I love my wife. I must follow love!” Love isn’t some trump card that trumps morality.)

Q: How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this movie to actually living out those opinions?
A: We don’t need to live our lives following every urge or pursuing what “feels right at the moment.” As Christ followers we need to have matured beyond that, becoming more and more like him. When we mature in Christ…
    14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:14-15, NIV)
So don’t live like those who don’t know Christ…
    17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (Ephesians 4:17-19, NIV)
So let Christ change you. How?
    22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
    24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
    (Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV)
Let God change “the attitude of our minds”. This concept is all through scripture (Romans 12:2 “the renewing of your minds”). It’s basically giving God control and allowing Him to change the way we think.

We don’t need an adjustment bureau for that. We just need to submit to the God who loves us so much, that he gives us the choice to trust in Him enough to voluntarily give it up to Him.

Are you ready to give Him control today? Pray and tell Him.

What are ways you can allow him to change the way you think? What are you putting into your “thinker”? Do you need to change some of the influences that you’re currently putting into your head?

What is one thing you could do this week to let him “change the attitude of our minds”?

Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, and You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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