Movie Review: Atlas Shrugged: Part 1

Plot: An independent railroad executive struggles to save her company against a crumbling economy exacerbated by self-destructive bureaucrats.

Review:

Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free as always.   In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I love Ayn Rand’s polarizing work “Atlas Shrugged”.  I read it once a year since I first read it and it helps to remind me why we few creators (or ‘Producers’ if you like) need to keep fighting the good fight in the face of often well-meaning people, who would demand we stick our own heads in the guillotine of self-sacrifice for the greater good.  This film, is targeted towards me and all other fans of the book.   The film is, well there’s no other way to put it, adequate.

Adequate doesn’t sound like I liked it though, which is wrong.  I really liked it.   The film, perhaps fittingly, was made as an independent venture.  (I don’t see big Hollywood even trying to do this anyway.)  But as an indy film, it suffered some pretty severe budget constraints.  That said, the filmmakers pulled it off.   The production values are on par with a made-for-TV movie or miniseries and chances are you’ll recognize more than half the actors from recent episodes of Law and Order or its spin-offs.  The casting was well done, with excellent choices for Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling), Oren Boyle (Jon Polito), Wesley Mouch (Michael Lerner), and Ellis Wyatt (Graham Beckell, chewing the scenery).    Standouts go to Patrick Fischler as Paul Larkin and Rebecca Wisocky in an excellent performance as the unlikeable Lilian Rearden.  In the book, my dislike of Lilian kind of crept up on me, but thanks to Rebecca’s performance, Lilian might be the quickest character  to earn my dislike since The Mist’s Mrs. Carmody.   I’m torn as far as Jsu Garcia’s performance as Francisco D’Anconia but it’s not because of his performance, more that I had a very distinct vision of the character in my head, and he doesn’t match it.   The same goes for Grant Bowler’s turn as Hank Rearden, and although he played it true to the character, I do wish he would have gotten a bit more angry at some of the injustices forced upon him by the film’s bureaucrats.

From a storytelling perspective, the film moves fast and does juggle the order of some plot points around in order to make things work.  It tries to stay as close to the book as it can in the scenes it depicts, but there simply isn’t enough time.  Understandably, whole story lines are truncated to mere sentences which results in one of the few genuinely negative things I have to say about the film.   Taken as the film alone I do not think the filmmakers did enough to emphasize the stakes in play during key points of the film.  But then, I suppose it can be argued that they are pretty much counting on everyone who sees this to at least be familiar with the book.   I honestly think that someone who had not read the book (or at least  listened to the abridged book on tape) would have a tough time figuring out why certain things are so important.   I don’t think it’s going to win over anyone new to Rand’s work or her philosophy.

Another slight negative is that the film does drag somewhat in the middle, particularly during the Rearden’s anniversary party scene.

Other than that, it was a thrill seeing some of my favorite scenes from the novel carried out on the big screen and I hope the film garners enough support that we get Part 2 and Part 3.

Bottom Line: If you haven’t read the book, this one could be a rough ride, since it moves very quickly.   If you have read the book and are a fan, this movie is definitely worth checking out and worthy of your support.   If you don’t like Ayn Rand, don’t lean towards libertarian politics, or can’t deal with less than blockbuster production values, then you’re probably better served staying home and curling up with a nice Michael Moore doco.

6.5/10

You can catch the trailer for Atlas Shrugged: Part 1, here: http://www.atlasshruggedpart1.com/atlas-shrugged-movie-trailer

 

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