Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Atlas Shrugged Part 1 - Movie Review

Image copyright The Strike Productions
The movie Atlas Shrugged is based on a continuously popular novel of the same title by Ayn Rand published in 1957. Atlas Shrugged opened April 15 (the usual IRS tax return deadline) and through April 28 has made 3.1 million dollars while playing on just 465 screens. (A normal release being 2500 to 3000 screens.) Hopefully the limited distribution of the film and the correspondingly lower box office receipts won’t hurt the chances for the production and release of Part 2. Why? Because for someone who hasn’t read the book, the movie ends frustratingly abruptly and leaves too many loose ends untied. I won’t hold my breath for this movie to have made a profit based on the mere eight people who were in the theater with me and a friend on a Tuesday evening. Hopefully, The Strike Productions will do a better job of marketing and distributing the DVD when it comes out a month or two from now.

Atlas Shrugged, the movie, is set in 2016 in an only slightly surreal United States mired in economic depression, and hyper-government control of business, and industry. Innovation, invention, and capitalism are frowned upon; success is anathema. Laws are being passed left and right to place controls on businesses and individuals that gain too much success. An anti-dog-eat-dog law is one example. Another example is that individual citizens are limited by law to owning one company. But lobbying, cronyism, political favoritism, and plenty of other immoral activity continues apace, while a liberal agenda of spreading fairness and spreading wealth is brought to bear as the government policy for dealing with the deepening depression and poverty in the country. Unfortunately, and probably not coincidentally, the subject matter bears striking similarities to some of the policies and activities being pursued in the U.S. under the Obama administration.

In the movie, gasoline is 37 dollars a gallon which causes personal travel and movement of freight by train to be the preferred methods of locomotion. It is in this atmosphere that Dagny Taggert, an owner of a family-owned railroad struggles to bring her business back from a disastrous railway accident. She has decided to use a revolutionary metal made from a new alloy to rebuild the tracks of her broken and decaying Rio Norte line. Hank Reardon is the beset owner of the steel company and developer of the new metal. The two CEOs collaborate on the project with Ellis Wyatt, a tough, down-to-earth oil company owner who needs the train line to move his oil cross-country. They succeed, despite being continuously dogged by government regulation, divestiture of personal property, political and industrial sabotage, etc.

Atlas Shrugged has some beautiful cinematography, and good acting by Taylor Shilling, Grant Bowler, Matthew Marsden, and Graham Beckel. Without the background of having read the book, some of what goes on in the movie is maddeningly mysterious, and as previously mentioned the ending is a dissatisfying truncation. But all in all, the good outweighs the little bad there is and this allegorical story is worth the time and money spent to see it. I just hope there is a part two to come.

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