Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 – Movie Review

April 16, 2011

The easy answer to whether you will like Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, the movie, is your reaction to Ayn Rand’s novel if you had read it before hand. If you love the book, you’ll love the movie. If you hated the book, then you’ll hate the movie. If you’ve never read the book, there is a 50-50 chance you’ll want to after watching the film. Clearly, Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 is not a ‘date movie’. The independently produced film starring Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart, whose family owns a railroad company, is set in America in 2016. Which begs the question, why would railroads be an important subject for a near-future plot?

atlas shrugged part 1 movie 1
Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, is the film version of Ayn Rand′s novel. The movie, starring Taylor Schilling and Grant Bowler, opened this weekend. Image courtesy of The Pinkston Group.

The answer comes as the movie begins. A global oil crisis has led to shortages and driven the price of a gallon of gasoline to $37.50. Sounds like buying gas these days in San Diego! Needless to say, the economy is in ruins due to this. This sets the stage for the government to enact a multitude of new laws and regulations, a sort of tyranny with a purpose for the ‘public good’. If you are among those whom have not read Rand’s book, but do follow news headlines, you might be open enough to accept the premise and curious enough to sit through the movie. Maybe even anxious enough to see Part 2 when it comes out next year.

Dagny tries to save her family business, and the country, by building a new train line to Colorado, where maverick oil tycoon Ellis Wyatt, played marvelously so by Graham Beckel, has plenty of black gold the world is thirsty for. She enlists the help of Hank Reardon, played by Grant Bowler, who has developed a new metal which is far superior than anybody else’s steel. Reardon′s personal life is a mess with a boorish wife and generally mooching family, so naturally he becomes attracted to the lovely and irrepressible Dagny Taggart. Her brother, James, played by Matthew Marsden, is a douche-bag who would sell out Dagny and anything else to please his mooching political and business friends.

If this is not enough conflict and subplot intrigue for you, there is the stealthy and enigmatic John Galt, played by director Paul Johansson, though you hardly see him much in Part 1. Who is John Galt? That is the question that begins the book, and the movie. Galt is the unseen hand behind the mysterious disappearances of productive and creative people. Dagny and Hank begin to get clues as to his true identity, the inventor of a new type of electric motor that runs on the Earth’s own static electricity. But most of their time is focused on more immediate problems of building the new railroad line, dealing with an oppressive government, corrupt special interest groups and developing a much needed romantic relationship between these two driven characters.

Taylor Schilling is so-so in her role. Too bad that Angelina Jolie, a genuine fan of Rand’s book and an early contender for the role, was unable to play Dagny Taggart due to scheduling issues. The movie would be much better and probably have far more box office appeal to the general audience if she had. Grant Bowler would not have been my first pick to play Hank Reardon, but he does deliver the goods. As the film had a modest budget, do not look for much in the way of eye-dazzling special effects or lavish sets.

Atlas Shrugged, Part 1
is a faithful movie version of Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel. If you have seen an earlier book of hers adapted for the big screen, The Fountainhead, which Rand herself wrote the screenplay for, that starred Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, you could say that Atlas Shrugged is a bit softer in terms of characters and dialog. Love it or hate it, Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, is out and in theaters across the country, though too few. I suspect that will change as the weeks progress. Parts 2 and 3 will each be released in 2012 and 2013, respectively. I would say that had they done this as two, 3-hour movies, it would probably be much better for those whom have never read the book. So see the movie, read the book and get ready for Part 2, when things really get interesting!

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2 Responses to “Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 – Movie Review”

  1. 1
    Beck Fan Says:

    Awesome movie! I can hardly wait for the next one!

  2. 2
    Jeanette Says:

    Great review, Andy. I may just have to check this one out…