In the near future, financial success is considered to be politically incorrect. It is felt that people should work for the common good, not personal gain. As more corporations are forced to close because of ridiculous anti-competition laws, the rich and brilliant entrepreneurs in the country begin to vanish. Dagny Taggart, one of the last remaining "successful" people, struggles to run her railroad company in this time of industrial collapse. She faces more and more difficulty at every turn, and finally begins to search for those missing captains of industry.
Directed by: Paul Johansson
. Starring: Taylor Schilling
, Grant Bowler
, Matthew Marsden
, Edi Gathegi
, Jsu Garcia
, Graham Beckel
, Jon Polito
, Patrick Fischler
, Rebecca Wisocky
, Michael Lerner
, Neill Barry
, Christina Pickles
, Paul Johansson
. Music by: Elia Cmiral
In early March, 2011, the producers of "Atlas Shrugged" held a screening of the film at a theater in downtown Washington, DC, and I decided to check it out. "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1" brings to the screen Ayn Rand's tale of what would happen if the most productive members of society, the titans of industry, were to grow tired of government interference in their business and just quit, leaving society's leeches to fend for themselves. It stars Taylor Schilling as lovely railroad tycoon Dagny Taggert, Grant Bowler as steel tycoon Henry Rearden, Graham Beckel as oil tycoon Ellis Wyatt, Jsu Garcia as copper tycoon Francisco D'Anconia, and a wide range of familiar TV faces playing the story's non-tycoons.
The movie may have been produced on a limited budget, but it actually looks good, though the key actors look much more like perfect Hollywood types than any titans of industry I've ever seen. But come on, this is a movie; let's give them some slack. Still, the dialog and the plotting and the characters seemed straight out of a breathless, cartoonish soap opera. You had your sexy young railroad tycoon scion and her untrustworthy Hollywood-handsome young brother and you had your Hollywood-handsome young steel tycoon and his untrustworthy wife and you had your suspicious middle-aged fat oil tycoon with his gaudy silver belt buckle and you had your Hollywood-handsome jet-set wealthy playboy -- and they all talked and talked and talked and jumped into each other's beds and dramatically threw drinks into faces and talked some more. At times I couldn't see how the actors mouthing that dialogue kept straight faces -- but they did, and I have to admit that given what they had to work with they generally acquitted themselves well.
But all that is superficial compared to my basic complaint, which is that the underlying premise makes no sense. I'm not talking about the mysterious stranger who appears unexpectedly in the night to make competent businessmen an offer they can't refuse, to make an argument so persuasive that they're invariably willing to give up home and family and everything else that they've struggled over a lifetime to achieve, give it all up without a second thought, to accompany this stranger to some as-yet undefined Shangri-La. Yes, I'll give the film all that. This is, after all, a fantasy tale and sometimes you just gotta go with the fantasy.
The problem is that in the world of "Atlas Shrugged," all titans of industry are unfailingly right and noble in all things and everybody else is unfailingly committed to working against the world's best interests. In this film the government disapproves of the invention of a miracle, lightweight steel that would revolutionize rail transportation, won't allow one person to own more than one business, allows agency heads to levy taxes, and with the Dow headed south of 4,000 and a depression gripping the nation, declares no industry can be more successful than any other because, well, golly, that just wouldn't be fair, now would it? Any fantasy requires suspension of disbelief, but some of the howlers in this movie surpass even Harry Potter's magic wand.
I really had to laugh as I watched the impossibly sexy railroad tycoon and her impossibly handsome steel tycoon boyfriend desert their day jobs, completely turn their backs on any hint of believable behavior, and inexplicably take up the life of amateur gumshoes. See the industry big shots track down mysterious characters from Wyoming to Montana to Louisiana to Michigan to Wyoming again and back to Michigan, maybe, I think, and then turn into Nancy Drew and Frank Hardy while they explore a spooky old cobweb-infested auto factory, chance upon a secret panel, and uncover long-lost plans for a miracle atmospheric electricity contraption that'll save the world.
And how do we know it'll save the world? Remember those lab-coat-wearing geniuses in 1950s atomic monster movies who were trotted out to explain with total confidence exactly what created that monster and what the plot was about to require to kill it? Well wait'll you hear what our hero tycoons have to say when they get a load of that dusty old coiled-wire Frankenstein's lab gizmo. I gotta tell you, toward the end, this movie got downright silly.
But it didn't end. This is merely part one of three and it had no more finality than the first Lord of the Rings movie. But I predict fans of the book will like the movie a lot. It really does look good, apparently it's faithful to the story, the acting is perfectly competent... basically the production shouldn't be an embarrassment to anybody involved. I've seen much worse.
I suspect, though, that this movie is unlikely to attract much of an audience beyond Rand fans, and even the faithful may have a few reservations. When the lights went back up at the screening I heard a lady behind me remark on "overacting" and the fellow next to me was telling his friend that overall it was good, but some things... specifically bit part characters reciting the phrase "Who is John Galt" for no apparent reason... came across as "forced." The big question for me was what there might be in the movie to attract people who will come into it looking for more than just an enjoyable rendering of a favorite book or validation of politics. I can't believe the melodrama aspect is strong enough to make it a good date movie. I certainly never worked up any interest in the personal lives of the steel, railroad, oil and copper masters of the universe. I predict there'll be an enthusiastic audience for this film among those who admire its philosophy, but I suspect few others will be drawn to it.
Review by Favog from the Internet Movie Database.