Atlas Shrugged – Part 1 (2011)


Posted on April 17, 2011 by

Atlas Shrugged – Part 1

Railroad executive Dagny Taggart and steel mogul Henry Rearden form an alliance to fight the increasingly authoritarian government of the United States.

I went to see this with a group; we had all levels of interest from “never read the book, no familiarity with Rand or Objectivism” to “read the book several times and have passages memorized” I am in the middle of that spectrum, having read the book 20-some years ago and being “Rand curious”. I am far right enough to embrace many, though not all, of her philosophies.

I’ve been looking forward to this movie almost since I read the book. Through the decades several casting choices were floated, some that seemed promising, some not so much. In the end, the lead roles went to “lesser known” actors (though you will recognize most of their faces).

Overall, I think they did well. I am gratified that Hank Rearden looks the part; truly a rugged individual, a man’s man. Some of the lesser characters were spot on; the sneering Lillian, the sniveling Phil, the snarling Ellis, the snakey Paul.

I was a slightly disappointed by Dagny. Regardless of her obvious hotness, her acting left something to be desired. A bit weak in her portrayal of such a strong woman, a bit wooden in her reactions to triumph & tragedy. The role would be a tough one to cast in the best of circumstances, but for a production with limited funds and even less acceptance by “Hollywood”, the actors willing to take part may have been scarce. Still, she did well and, should they decide to make the future installments, she may grow into the part.

Some worried the production would suffer from a low budget; in fact, many of the pre-opening ‘reviews’ made a great deal of snarky hay about that problem. The issues suffered by the final product seem to have little to do with funding and more to do with a novice director. The scenes involving dialogue are a bit cramped, even awkward on occasion. The scenes involving the great outdoors are beautiful, but those involving the disintegrating cities are not quite gritty enough. And the limos. *drink* Limos driving down the street. Conversations in limos. Limos pulling up to the curb. Limos pulling away from the curb. *drink*

As far as conveying the message, I thought perhaps it was a bit heavy-handed (not a lot, but a bit – and the book was, too). However, I already know big government is bad, I already know how prophetically Rand’s story parallels the path America is on. For someone unfamiliar with the grand ideas of personal responsibility and individual greatness, maybe they will need to be hit with a 2 X 4.

I definitely recommend it, and I recommend you see it in a theater. There is something to be said for seeing an experience film with an enthusiastic crowd. Saturday at the Valley Art brought audiences who waited in long lines before the movie and applauded after. A rare thing, indeed.

*…it’s the Atlas Shrugged drinking game

UPDATE: Danno points out that in all those limo scenes, it is only the business types – not the government fat cats who would clearly be indulging in the luxury, as well.

More of our AZ bloggers thoughts on the film after today’s viewing:
Great Satan, Inc
Exurban League
SandCastle Scrolls

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 10%; Audience 85%

Cross-posted at Vox

Response to Atlas Shrugged – Part 1 (2011)

  1. Andrew Davey

    I look forward to seeing “Atlas Shrugged” soon. When I read it nearly forty years ago (I was 16) I thought it was the greatest book ever written. (Note that my 12 year old daughter thinks the “Harry Potter” series is the greatest and recognize that views change with maturity.) After re-reading once, and now going through it again in anticipation of the film, I now know that it is a book of vivid imagination, moderately well written, but very limited in the one-sided philosophy.

    While I am still very libertarian, conservative and individualistic in my personal beliefs and practices, it is hard to see the world as a 55 year old as simply as I did as a 16 year old. So while I appreciate Rand’s broad portrayal of a future dystopian world and how there are many parallels with American society (almost eerily conforming to her predictions in part)of today; I also know that there are many “John Galt”s doing their part to fight back … hence the tea party movement.

    Because of the nature of the novel it seemed to me to be very unlikely to translate well onto the big screen. Huge amounts of “Atlas Shrugged” are monologues which are expositions of objectivist philosophy. The character interactions are, at times, forced and unrealistic (true in any novel, but particularly true when the author is not subtle in presenting a philosophy). And the material is so antithetical to the prevailing philosophy in the current arts community that opposition is/was brutal.

    I hope to find the movie enjoyable, perhaps reflective of the “Atlas Shrugged” that I know and have enjoyed, but I am skeptical that it will really live up the intentions of the book. Perhaps a better Rand novel to put on the screen would be “We the Living” when her philosophy was emerging, her writing still reflected her early practice as a screen writer, and her characters were not so one dimensional.

Would you recommend it to your friends?