Posts Tagged ‘matt damon’

    But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God… Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy… (Jude 1:20-21,24 ESV)

The Adjustment Bureau wants to be a profound, thought-provoking and encouraging epic. It tries so hard to get there but didn’t quite do it. It’s not merely that the end is a little absurd, it’s that what it’s trying to achieve is nearly impossible. When any movie attempts to deal with the question of free will versus determinism, it always has to pick one. Movies like Minority Report may come close to demonstrating that both are true but ultimately, free will usually wins (unless the movie is 12 Monkeys). Am I saying this movie was terrible? No. Is it worth watching? Maybe. Damon and Blunt have awesome chemistry and are super believable in their almost instant depth of love for each other. I enjoyed their interactions and banter. Each of their characters is very winsome and easy to root for and want the best for. But I think part of the flaws of this film start with concept of an “adjustment bureau.”

You’re Either Sovereign or Not, There’s No In-between!

Is the adjustment bureau sovereign or not? They act like they control everything and that you cannot go against the plan – unless they make a mistake, that is. Ultimately, they come off as rather weak. One man working against them, with the help of one “agent,” manages to throw everything off and change things. All he needs is to be committed and determined. That’s it? I kept thinking: “Really? That’s the best they can throw at Damon?” I also kept thinking: “What’s with the hats? Why do these guys need to stand out like sore thumbs?” I so badly wanted this movie to work but the adjustment bureau entity was so much talk and very little results. These guys are in control and have a chairman who is essentially God? They sure look and act like a human government. Power is not sovereignty. It’s just power.

Suffering & Satisfaction versus Ease & Loneliness

Even with all the flaws, I was into this film and hoping for an excellent ending right up until one key decision. I won’t reveal it and it is a bit subtle, but it changed the remaining part of the movie for me. The choice is painted as success versus pain but it really is about suffering and satisfaction versus ease and loneliness. This is exactly what we trend towards, especially as Americans. Think about it. We bail on marriage when it gets hard. We choose our careers so quickly. Stay at home moms are looked down on. Education is an idol. Suffering is pushed away – we have to fix or numb that. We cannot compute with a path that suffering is associated with peace and joy, only that suffering is death.

Do we really believe that life is simply about surface level success? If I’m president, it’s better than having a healthy family. If I’m a successful engineer, that’s better than spending time with my kids. Is it any surprise that, as Americans, we can be so lonely? Watch the decision made in this film and think about it. We want our cake and to eat it too but “success” tends to win that battle.

The Never-ending Question: Free Will or Predestination?

What is the point of this film that it roughly crashes into at the end? Seize your free will. Change your future. But what if seizing your free will only means burning it all down? This movie presumes our goodness. Damon cracks the code in a sense but he has good and noble intentions. What if those intentions were bad? What about the people that get kicked around in this movie as a result Damon’s choices and changing of his future? Are they less deserving? The movie wants to dig into the question of whether we have free will or not. The adjustment bureau claims free will is a joke. The age old question. Are we determined, either chemically or by a sovereign God? Are we free, just within certain parameters? Do we dictate our own destiny? No film can answer this question, try as they may. Honestly, even the Bible doesn’t answer it! We absolutely have to believe in both. We have a sovereign good God. He is not surprised by anything. He wills the suffering of Job. He plans the death of his only son on the cross. We are chosen in Christ. We are totally depraved and would not turn to Jesus apart from his intervention. The grace he gives is completely unmerited and a gift. However, God tells us that our choices matter. Our prayers affect things. Evangelism matters. My actions have impacts. Every morning I know this it true – I know my choices and who is responsible for my sin. Believe both.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

I appreciate the intentions of Adjustment Bureau. It wanted to be more. I rooted for Damon and Blunt. I love how unyielding Damon is and how he doesn’t give up. You’ll probably enjoy this movie. There is a some foul language and a PG-13 sex scene so be wary. If you see it, think about how God is both good as well as sovereign. Hard stuff happens but God knows what is best for us. We can balk at that or trust him, let him give you the peace that transcends all understanding, and walk in relationship with him and others.

Affliction may deprive us of our estates, but sin deprives us of our God…

Better [to] be in a prison and have God’s presence, than on a throne and lack it. – Thomas Watson

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As always, if there’s a movie release I missed, I likely felt it not worth seeing…

Black Death (May 10)

I almost wrote an entire post on this movie because of one of the key questions that I think it poses: Where is the evil? I loved the tension of the pseudo Christians vs. the pagan village and how it’s all a façade. Is the evil in Christianity? Is the evil within the necromancer? Is the bubonic plague a punishment sent by God? Is evil as simple as an external force to be wiped out and defeated? This film makes it very clear from the beginning to the end: the evil is within. We chase necromancers and Satan and curse God for plagues while our hearts are fouler than anything we can imagine. I’d link to the trailer but I think it’s misleading – the battle scenes are not the most violent or darkest parts of this movie.

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV)

This is a very violent and disturbing film. I’ve seen gorier movies but the sound of the violence nearly got to me in Black Death. The recant scene and climax is intense, almost spiritually intense. It’s a very difficult film to recommend. I didn’t take my wife to see this nor will I watch it with her when it comes out on DVD.

True Grit (June 7)

I still don’t know what to make of True Grit. I appreciated Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld. Damon surprised me, actually; I did not expect him to make his Texas Ranger so believable or likeable. Steinfeld is simply incredible. I’ll watch this film again just to watch her interactions with every other character. I take Jeff Bridges for granted because of how good he was playing a similar type of character in Crazy Heart. I appreciate the overarching theme of the sovereignty of God. However, I need to see it again to wrestle with what exactly the Coen brothers were intending to say to us. Stanley Fish has some extremely good thoughts in this NY Times article. I think it’s worth watching but don’t expect a clean or easy to decipher film.

Updated 6/22/11

Adjustment Bureau (June 21)

See my initial thoughts here: The Adjustment Bureau: Suffering & Sovereignty Not a great movie but provokes some interesting questions. The key point in them movie is that choice that always seems to be one before us: suffer & find peace or be “successful” but not have joy or peace. The gospel offers us suffering & joy & peace, Jesus succeeded for us & freed us to love him and walk in his grace without fear. The Adjustment Bureau reveals just how far we will go to avoid suffering until we absolutely have to. 

Unknown (June 21)

This movie looked intriguing but I have not had a chance to see it yet. The reviews are mixed but Liam Neeson tearing up Europe again? Sign me up!

Update 9/14/11

Finally got a chance to watch it and Unknown had a twist that completely caught me by surprise. I loved it. The trailers, the posters, all of them just set you up. I thought the previews looked intriguing but a little ridiculous with Neeson seeming to be the same man that tore up Paris in “Taken” and yet he was a doctor trying to “get his life back.” Let’s just say that it all makes sense by the end. Look for the “baptism” and the intervention of a grace that redeems in an unlikely form. Just a heads up: the quick shower scene is a bit unnecessary, feel free to fast forward.

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I have to confess that between my kids and my marriage, losing my father 9 years ago, and simply growing in my understanding of the gospel, I have become quite a softy. I feel like I come to tears nearly every day now, which, as an ISTJ who grew up being taught to never take anything personally, is just not like who I have been most of my life. I was moved to tears many times in Hereafter. Yes, it can be contrived and the film’s depiction of the hereafter is vague and unbiblical, but I got into it and I genuinely appreciated this movie. This is a film not truly about the hereafter but more about loss and loneliness and the question of whether the hereafter is a solution or not.


I thought Clint Eastwood did a great job with this movie in helping you feel a sense of the loss that comes with losing a loved one, that loss that accompanies death. Marcus and Jason’s story absolutely crushed me. This might have been helped by the fact that I have 2 sets of twins of my own, but I really felt the ache of Marcus and was gripped by every scene. The movie’s portrayal of the events of the tsunamis of 2004, and of deaths of individuals, all felt meaningful and weighty. There’s another event that happens later in the movie that I was struck by the weight of even the ambiguous loss wrapped up in it. In our post 9-11 world, not many things shock us anymore. Earthquakes kills thousands in China and Haiti, floods kill many across America, soldiers die daily, and terrorists blow up busses. On top of those things, news outlets sensationalize the negative and we keep being more and more desensitized in the overload of bad news. But when a big event happens in the middle of the movie, it is not merely glossed over and I was surprised by how Eastwood even used it to give meaning to death and help you feel the loss in it by how people react and engage with that event.


As well as loss and the weight of death were portrayed, they were simply a means to get to another theme: loneliness and the sense of being alone. This is a pervading theme that I saw very early on. The 3 main characters are searching not merely for answers but for relationship. Marcus wants his brother back and feels lost without him, utterly isolated. George (Matt Damon) is completely isolated by his ability to speak for the dead. His gift isolates him from every relationship except for his brother, (excellently played by Jay Mohr) who truly is for him and loves George but still doesn’t get it. Marie has a near death experience in the tsunami tragedy and seemingly no one believes her or understands what she went through and she is subsequently ostracized. Ultimately, this movie is not a movie about the hereafter. The hereafter only acts as a means of drawing out the problem of loneliness. When death happens, we are crushed and hurt but we are lonely. In my experience with my dad and every experience thereafter, loneliness has been the overriding emotion associated with death. I want him back! I miss him dearly! Can’t I just have a few minutes with him? Why didn’t I appreciate him more! Hereafter even goes beyond that in demonstrating loneliness felt not merely from death but from life in general. Marie and George don’t even have relationships from which to even feel that deep loss from. They don’t have relationships where they can truly be themselves.

This sounds depressing, why see this movie?

We all feel the loneliness and loss that Hereafter displays at some point or another, many of us more than others. Deep down though, we all feel this loss and loneliness deeply. We long for intimacy. We desire friendships and relationship where we can be ourselves. But we’re disappointed time and time again. Friendships change. Our marriages struggle. People let us down. We let others down in spite of our best efforts. We lose friends and parents. Our wives get breast cancer. Relationships just seem to erode or get derailed by life. So is that just how life is and we just gut it out? We know it should be different. We long for more for a reason. What is our hope? Hereafter presents the afterlife as a sort of peaceful weightlessness and reunion with the only backing being that’s what people see in near-death experiences. Even if that was true, is it enough? I think it’s weak. I think there’s more.

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3 ESV)

We don’t have to scrape and claw for answers in the vague near-death experiences, the God who is not silent has given us guidance in the Bible. What do we learn there? Religion is the solution, seriously? Nope. You learn that we were made for relationship with the triune God of the Universe. But we rejected Him. We fell into sin which broke that relationship. But God the Father send His precious, eternal Son to suffer and die to get us back. Now God has opened the door and is waiting with a lavish grace and mercy ready to take you as you are. He knows you better that you do and through Jesus He is for you. The good news of the Bible is not another 4 step method to happiness but restoration of relationships. First, God restores us to Himself. Through that restoration, our relationships with people can be redeemed. That is only way through the ache of loneliness and loss and despair that Hereafter beautifully presents to us.

Few delights can equal the mere presence of One whom we fully trust. – George MacDonald

Funny One-Minute Review of Hereafter from the Rabbit Room

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