Movie Review: Atlas Shrugged part 1

Posted by Jonathan Nori on April 19, 2011

Here we are. The beginning of the end for Harry, Hermione, Ron, and everyone else in the amazing wizarding world of Harry Potter. Oh, wait. Sorry. Wrong “part 1.” I probably shouldn’t mention that I watched THAT movie last weekend too, should I?


Okay, no more silliness, on to a movie review of a part 1 of a movie that does NOT involve wands, invisible skeleton horses, chest hair, and a totally badass Ralph Fiennes.

On to Atlas Shrugged part 1.

If you’ve never been able to work up the enthusiasm to read Ayn Rand’s excellent book about the interplay between government and business, don’t worry, you’ll never have to: It is now a movie.

Now, because Atlas Shrugged eschewed the traditional Hollywood route, it’s only been showing in a handful of theaters nationwide. A few days ago some friends and I took an afternoon and drove to Washington, D.C. (okay, Bethesda, MD) to see it. One hundred miles was the closest theater showing the movie.

For those of you unschooled in the awesomeness that is Rand, I won’t spoil anything for you.

The movie itself is very well done and /looks/ like a slick Hollywood production. This tends to be a flaw in many independent films, but thankfully it seems as though these folks held out for the right team of filmmakers.

Most of the actors were well cast. Oil magnate Ellis Wyatt was particularly good, as were Henry Reardon, James Taggart, and the political jockey Mouch. Dagny Taggart, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as good as her costars. Not that she was bad, but she simply played the awkward back room operations executive-cum-entrepreneur a little too awkwardly.

What really shines, though, is how well things like Rand’s “anti-dog eat dog rule” and “equalization of opportunity act” are presented and handled. Note I did not use the term “fictitious” when referring to these. Anyone who has been paying attention to what President Obama has been saying lately will be terrified by this movie, and how predictive it feels. Remember, Atlas Shrugged was written in the 1950s. It is more true, and more relevant, to today than ever before.

I’m looking forward to seeing parts 2 and 3. Go see part 1 and let me know what you think!

EDIT 4/20/11

I identified today the biggest part of Atlas Shrugged part 1 that didn’t work for me: The scope and size. Sure, the offices of Taggart and Rearden were posh. Yes, there were fancy dinners and Lavish parties. But how many people actually worked for these companies? Give me a sense of scale!

When Dagny Taggart is trying to save her railroad, how many jobs are we talking? When the rail workers union threatens a walkout, how many families are we talking about losing their livelihood? When Reardon is forced to sign over control of his companies, how many families is the government forcing him to abandon?

The size issue is important, because the very premise of Atlas Shrugged is rather unpopular right now, given that governments and their agencies have repeatedly (and quite successfully) managed to convince the rank and file voter that corporations are the root of all evil (contrary to even the most cursory exposure to actual facts). If I am supposed to feel sorry that wealthy business owner is being attacked, it’s helpful to know what the stakes are.

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