The Adjustment Bureau

I saw The Adjustment Bureau yesterday, and I have got to say that I liked it. I would add that it wasn’t as good as Inception or as thrilling as Source Code, but it was a genuinely decent film. It goes without saying that this post contains spoilers.

This movie is all about determinism and free will. If you don’t like pondering theological concepts such as these, then you likely won’t like this movie. Matt Damon stars as an United States Senator who gets bumped out of office only to try to run again in 4 years. He meets a girl at the start of the movie with whom he felt a strong and deep connection as if they were meant to be together. This connection drove him to seek her out overcoming the Adjusters along the way. The Adjusters were humanoid looking but were something supernatural. They followed the Plan, which was set forth by the Chairman. When chance leads particular people off of the Plan, the Adjusters make adjustments to these people’s lives to bring them back on track. Therefore, there is really no free will, only preset options that lead one through a specific plan with only slight deviation along the way. Matt Damon’s character deviates heavily, causing ripples and strife along the way, so much so that the Chairman ultimately grants him free will and a clean slate with no preset plan. What I would like to ask you, the reader, is what kind of determinism is The Adjustment Bureau all about?

This movie could be strict determinism. Every action is predetermined and there is no free will. Arguably this movie could be molinism: every person has multiple paths to choose from, and each choice leads to different predetermined outcomes, so there is both free will and determinism. Is The Adjustment Bureau strictly deterministic or is it molinistic?

Before the end of the movie when Matt Damon’s character is granted free will and a clean slate, the only way to deviate from the Plan was not from free will but from chance. It seems the entirety of the movie up until the very end is determinism in its strictest sense, and then in the case of Matt Damon’s character only it switched utterly to free will. If it were molinism, there would have to be elements of predetermined outcomes. But wait, there were, for we found out that the Plan had changed 12 times for his character and the girl that he had met. But why did it change so many times? Was it a result of chance having sway? Was it that the Chairman changed his or her mind? Or maybe it isn’t molinism? Maybe it is determinism, but writer of the Plan came up with different drafts and ultimately settled on the 13th version. Well, I can’t quite convince myself that it is molinism in the movie. Matt Damon’s character doesn’t make choices that lead to different predetermined outcomes. Instead, he makes choices to deviate from the Plan as it was predetermined for him, but which previously was the Plan. So, instead of molinism, it is like a layered system of determinism.

Enough of my pondering. What do you think?