Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review: Atlas Shrugged Part 1

When I first caught wind of a movie production of the novel Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (rhymes with 'mine'), I was skeptical it would ever be completed. For a host of reasons, this best selling novel has never had an on screen portrayal until now. 
What a portrayal it is.

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 should be considered for what it is, a low-budget, independently produced labor of love that faithfully replicates its source material. The strengths and weaknesses of Rand's work are brought forth fully on the screen, albeit in an abridged and refreshed form. The refreshes include cell phones and the various integral facets of life in the world of fallen USA 2016. Those who read or adored the book will appreciate the manner in which it was done. The attention to the details of the story and the flourishes on the sets are representative and work well on screen, for those who are looking for them.

But  Atlas Shrugged shines, both as a book and as a movie, when the characters, their motivations, and the ideals that drive them onward are center stage. The steel magnate Hank Rearden, the railroad savior Dagney Taggart, the oil tycoon of Colorado Ellis Wyatt, the varied and sundry line up of villains, and the elusive John Galt are the pistons that drive this engine. Taylor Schilling and Paul Johansson nail the characterizations of Taggard and Rearden, the two heroes of a crumbling world. They are thinly veiled automatons of a conflicted idealogy, but its nice to have faces attached to warring mindsets. This is most blatantly obvious, even painful to watch, for the middle 40 minutes of the movie. More the fault of the book then the movie. However, this movie would have been unmitigated awfulness if Schilling had a poor performance, and for an easy 90% of her screen time she nailed Taggarts character.  

The most powerful component of the tale lies in the quietly menacing accuracy of its villains. Each and everyone looks to the government to solve their problems, and the problems of the world around them, and seek to pillage or restrict the efforts of the productive individuals (apparently this is limited exclusively to Taggart and Rearden). Most frightening is the realization that much of what is preached by the 'looters and moochers' is what is said all to frequently from Washington today, and would probably receive agreement from a large part of the audience. The film hinges on a scene in Rearden's office. When asked to sell the rights to his new invention (Rearden metal) to the state nation or to cease production, Rearden replies by asking directly if his metal is good.  The state lackey can muster no answer, having no basis or morality to take a position on. 
This is the foundation of Rand's work, that the only morality to make judgement on is what she deems objectivism, and that all else is rubbish. (Side note, it really is impossible to review this without wandering off into philosophical discussion)

For what this movie tries to do, it does well. An uncompromising adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, reveling in the glories and the pitfalls of its source material. By far the most faithful adaptation I've seen, rife with all the little subplots that make the book so fascinating as well. 

Recommendation 1, read the book.
Recommendation 2, the movie is pretty good too. You'll watch it and then not want to read the book because you will think you have it all down, which is sad. Because you won't have understood it yet. But its a good try.

Movie Trailer
Audiobook (Get it for Free)
Paperback Book


Gino said...

i know i probably should, but i have zero interest in the book, and even less in the movie.

maybe i'm just tired of hearing references to it from a billion atlas blog posers.

(no, there is not a 't' missing in 'posers')

Palm boy said...

You should read it, if only to catch all the allusions made to it my the John Galts of the world