Free Will At The Movies

Jay Michaelson analyzes the zealous individualism of The Adjustment Bureau:

Fate is supposed to be fate: it’s final, and it’s the way it is. In religious and spiritual systems that subscribe to it, the best thing a religious person can do is resign oneself to it, to cultivate the serenity to accept the things one cannot change, to paraphrase theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.

But not in Hollywood, where human agency knows no bounds.

Of course Norris should follow his heart, disobey God’s plan, and marry the girl of his dreams. And of course he can; while Norris frets about free will, it’s obvious that he does have it. He’s up against some powerful adversaries, but he calls the shots. We know all this because we know Hollywood’s sentimental religion, which is indeed a kind of neo-Romantic fanatic narcissism. And it is fanatic: once Norris makes his decision, he risks his own life, her life, and the life of countless collateral damage casualties.