Philip K. Dick’s back catalog of paranoid insanity is sadly becoming easy pickings for Hollywood’s drought of ideas. While Blade Runner and Minority Report have become classics for one reason or another, films like Paycheck and Next make fans almost ashamed of their beloved Dick. The general problem is that few truly understand the complex and sometimes schizophrenic nature of the material. Most films attempt to simplify it, which changes it into something else entirely. And then it doesn’t work.
The Adjustment Bureau could have been a complete toss-up. Showcased in this story is Dick’s paranoid view of the world around him, how there is a second layer discretely manipulating the first layer. Whether it is a shadow conspiracy or the hand of God does not matter. What matters is that people are not noticing. What matters is that people are having their choices nullified and reduced to insignificance. A world like that causes existential angst. It’s nihilism based not on a lack of reward but on lack of involvement instead.