Fate or free will? It's an interesting question, the kind that stoned college sophomores contemplate while passing the bong in the dorm room.
Unfortunately, the deck is stacked in George Nolfi's The Adjustment Bureau, an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story. Oh, the humanity.
Because, in a movie that takes only the concept but not the plot of Dick's story, there seems to be no real threat or jeopardy. Only personal romance seems to be at stake -- and it's hard to get too worked up about that.
Matt Damon plays David Norris, an upstart from Brooklyn who's a favorite to be elected to the U.S. Senate from New York until a last-minute scandal derails him. As he gathers himself in a Waldorf men's room before making his concession speech, he discovers he's not alone -- there's a young woman hiding in one of the stalls.
Her name is Elise (Emily Blunt) and the two of them hit it off almost immediately -- so much so that they share a kiss that promises a future.
After giving a concession speech that rouses the audience, Norris goes to work for a law firm -- but he's being shadowed by a group of gray-suited types in fedoras, led by John Slattery and Anthony Mackie. There is mysterious back-and-forth between this pair, in which Slattery reminds Mackie that his assignment is to spill coffee on Norris before 7:10 a.m. as Norris strolls through Manhattan's Madison Square Park.
But Mackie is asleep on a park bench as Norris strolls by -- and Norris then catches a glimpse of Elise riding a bus down Broadway. He gives chase, catches the bus and renews the acquaintance. But now he's messed with the space-time continuum - or something of that sort.
Which means that, when he gets to his office, he's someplace he's not supposed to be. His coworkers, it seems, are in a state of suspended animation -- except for that Hat Squad, led by Slattery and Mackie. They capture him and take him to a large, empty warehouse, where they explain what's what.
Which is that, basically, there is a plan for everything in the world. But every once in a while, those quirky, unpredictable humans do something to screw it up. So it's up to this group -- the bureau of the title -- to step in, hit pause, scramble people's brains just a little and set things back on course. And Norris' course does not include Elise.
Norris, however, is enough of a troublemaker to rebel against the idea that he can't exercise free will and determine the course of his own life. Though he is forced to lose Elise's phone number, he spends the next three years searching for her. And when he finds her again, he brings down the force of the entire Adjustment Bureau on their heads.
Which means ... what?