Reviews: Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged Part I: Nothing Makes Sense

Watching Atlas Shrugged Part I was an oddly surreal experience. A movie that came from the pockets of some businessmen who cobbled together whatever personnel they could find; small-name character actors from television, a screenwriter who's mostly done straight-to-dvd horror films, and that guy who did the music for Spec Ops: The Line. It relied solely on Youtube trailers to advertise itself.

The whole film comes off like the product of someone who tried really, really hard to make a movie, but doesn't know anything about how to make movies. To be completely fair, there are a few nice bits that are clever in an "I understood what they taught me at film school" way; a fade cut from a train to James Taggart playing with a toy train, the framing of the last shot as Dagny Taggart views the burning oil well. The music is decent, if overbearing. But aside from that it's a mess. Dialogue is clunky and wooden, the first third is bent on hammering out exposition, with no regard to pacing or establishing characters. A character approaches Dagny to announce his resignation, and Dagny is devastated. But we don't know who he is and we never see him again, so the emotional impact is lost. With few exceptions, the cast struggles; James Taggart is one-dimensional and his actor obviously doesn't care, and Dagny's actress is unable to make use of a script that gives her nothing to work with. The launching of the John Galt Line seems like it'd be the film's climax, but after that's finished the film pursues another subplot for thirty minutes with no resolution.

But the thing that gets me the most is that, for a film funded by businessmen and meant to extol the virtues of the free market, the heroes are phenomenally stupid businessmen. Francisco D'Anconia decides bilking his investors so he can prank the Mexican government is a good idea, yet he doesn't suffer the obvious repercussions of getting booted by the board of directors or watching his company tank as the stock price nosedives. Steel magnate Hank Rearden, faced with a government bill that will seize most of his holdings by limiting him to owning a single company, rather than merge his assets into one consolidated company, simply sighs and hands over everything but his miracle metal company. Why? Probably because Ayn Rand was an author of fiction and not a businesswoman.