Film review: Atlas Shrugged

posted at 10:30 am on April 17, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

While some people waited excitedly for the premiere of the first cinema installment of Ayn Rand’s seminal novel Atlas Shrugged, I have to admit that I didn’t hold out high expectations for the film.  The book was a smashing exercise in philosophical, economic, and political study — absolutely brilliant.  As entertainment, however, the novel has its problems, and even the most determined reader can find getting through the book’s massive size a daunting and patience-testing task.  I read Atlas Shrugged twenty-five years ago, and while I appreciated its brilliance, I have had little desire to revisit it since.

So it’s fair to say that I prepared myself for a difficult slog, but to my surprise, Atlas Shrugged Part I turned into an intriguing, stylish film that did not water down the Randian message in the least.   In fact, the film format seems to free the characters in some sense from the limitations of Rand’s prose and give more clarity and purpose to the story, while keeping its message firmly at the film’s center.

When the novel was first published in 1957, the rail industry was still a central key to the American economy.  The film takes place in the near future, starting in 2016, and cleverly uses a global energy crisis to return rail to a central position in American industry.  Economic decline has pushed American government with ever-increasing speed into interventionism and central planning.  Politicians and lobbyists scream about fairness and the need to force the wealthy to pay their share in order to show compassion.  In fact, the producers could have placed large blocs of Barack Obama’s entitlement-reform speech from last Wednesday into the film, and it would have fit neatly into the narrative.

A few titans of industry resist the momentum of socialism — or to be more accurate, the crony capitalism that precedes and abets socialism and fascism. Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling) needs to save her family’s railroad empire from her incompetent brother (Matthew Marsden), and turns to steel producer Henry Rearden (Grant Bowler) for a revolutionary new metal for aging and unreliable tracks.  She needs them to service oil tycoon Ellis Wyatt (Graham Beckel), who says he has discovered an ocean of oil in Colorado. Rearden’s facing trouble from the government as his former advocate Wesley Mouch (Michael Lerner) essentially switches sides and tries to put him out of business.  Meanwhile, prominent and successful men keep disappearing without a trace, and no one knows where they have gone — except perhaps Dagny’s old flame Francisco (Jsu Garcia), who may not be the dissipated playboy he seems.

All of this could have moved turgidly along for the 102 minutes of screen time that Part 1 takes, and in the first few minutes, the introductory dialogue seems a little stilted and forced.  The film quickly finds its pace, though, and moves snappily along afterward.  While the plot has been updated to contemporary times, the style of the film hearkens back to Rand’s time.  Dialogue is kept spare and meaningful, and skips the present-day sensibilities of tossing in stock comic-relief characters to lighten the mood. Visually, the film is rich and inviting, and thematically uses both the skepticism of noirish intrigues and the CinemaScope optimism seen in the 1950s and early 1960s, such as in films like Giant, which also had its share of both.

The characters get divided up fairly quickly into camps of antagonists and protagonists, with only Francisco and Paul Larkin (Patrick Fischler) having much ambiguity, and most of the characters in Part 1 belong in the former camp.  In morality plays — and this is definitely a large, complicated morality play — this kind of clarity is not unusual, and usually works.  It certainly does in Part 1.  Those used to having less certainty and more nuance in film characters will feel out of place, perhaps, but don’t confuse this with cardboard characterizations, at least not with the main characters.  Grant Bowler’s Henry Reardon is a masterpiece of underplayed power and nuance, easily the best performance in this installment, although newcomer Taylor Schilling does well as the central character in the film.

The best word to describe Atlas Shrugged Part 1 is … surprising.  It’s surprisingly well-paced, surprisingly intelligent, surprisingly well-acted, and surprisingly entertaining.  Perhaps most surprising of all, it has me thinking about re-reading the novel again.  I would highly recommend it to friends and their families.

Speaking of friends, one of the actors in the film is Navid Neghaban, who played the villainous husband in The Stoning of Soraya M. Navid will join me on Tuesday to discuss the film on The Ed Morrissey Show, which starts with Andrew Malcolm at 3 pm ET.

Update: I deliberately avoided reading reviews of the film until after I saw it first, but one of the first places I checked after writing my review was Reason Magazine — and I was surprised to find a range of reactions to it, from Kurt Loder’s panning to Brian Doherty’s qualified endorsement, with a more enthusiastic reaction from Matt Welch thrown in as well.   Also, according to Box Office Mojo, the limited release seems to be paying dividends.  The film had the third highest per-screen average on Friday night of the films at the box office.  The trick will be to move it up from 300 screens to somewhere over 1000, if possible.  With a budget of only $10 million, it won’t take long for the film to recoup its costs.


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Also, according to Box Office Mojo, the limited release seems to be paying dividends. The film had the highest per-screen average on Friday night of any of the films at the box office.

looks like the 3rd highest per screen from that link

commodore on April 17, 2011 at 10:35 AM

I haven’t seen it yet, but plan too.

Dasher on April 17, 2011 at 10:38 AM

We planned to see it this weekend but I think weather is going to put us in the yard. Maybe later in the week when it gets to hot to work outside.

Cindy Munford on April 17, 2011 at 10:38 AM

Haven’t seen the film, but all the talk has prompted me to reread for the first time in over 30 years.

Break-even point will be north of $40 million at the box office. $10M for production, $10M for distribution and advertising, but theaters and distribution channels will take 50% off the top.

NeighborhoodCatLady on April 17, 2011 at 10:38 AM

Just a note…

it’s “crony mercantilism,” not “crony capitalism.”

Don’t accept the left’s Orwellian redefinition of terms.

ebrown2 on April 17, 2011 at 10:40 AM

It’s just a movie.

Blake on April 17, 2011 at 10:41 AM

looks like the 3rd highest per screen from that link

commodore on April 17, 2011 at 10:35 AM

D’oh! That’s what I meant to write, too. Fixed it.

Ed Morrissey on April 17, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Like Ed I was prepared to be disappointed…and was very pleasantly surprised!

Go see it, folks. Do NOT take the word or the myriad “reviewers” trying desperately to have you NOT see it!

The dialogue in some places could literally have appeared on Obama’s teleprompter in the past few weeks…you’ll recognize the places! :)

Justrand on April 17, 2011 at 10:43 AM

It’s just a movie.

Blake on April 17, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Well thank you Mr. Wizard

darwin-t on April 17, 2011 at 10:44 AM

I watched the interview with the film makers on FNC with John Stossell. They had to distribute the film themselves. They really are herculean in their efforts to get this message out. Stossel interview Atlas Shrugged Film Maker, and Actor Video.

Words As Weapons, Sharper Than Knives, INXS.

Dr Evil on April 17, 2011 at 10:45 AM

I agree. Having read the book recently, the movie flew through those many pages. I think I like the movie more then the book. Having said that, I don’t know if I had not read the book that I would appreciate the movie as much. One thing I do know, the message was there, presented in a very entertaining way.

IowaWoman on April 17, 2011 at 10:48 AM

Good review, Ed Thanks. I’ll probably go see it later this week. Like you, I had a difficult time getting through the book. As far a social commentary, I prefered Heinlein’s “Starship Trooper”.

Fynxbell on April 17, 2011 at 10:48 AM

Will certainly be buying the movie when it is released to Blu-Ray, having an entertaining, educational and relevant video all in one will be worth the price.

fourdeucer on April 17, 2011 at 10:49 AM

I went to see it on Friday evening with my husband and parents. My husband was convinced we would be the only people in the theater. I thought otherwise. I even had him buy the tickets online the night before b/c I didn’t want to chance it being sold out when we got there. There is only one theater in the Fort Worth area showing it. I was very happily surprised when we got there to find the theater not only completely full, but was told it had been that way all day. They even had to add another showing that evening. Also, extremely happy to see that we were not the only young people there. There was a very good mix of young and old. I was very encouraged by this.

annetteharrell on April 17, 2011 at 10:50 AM

Break-even point will be north of $40 million at the box office. $10M for production, $10M for distribution and advertising, but theaters and distribution channels will take 50% off the top.

NeighborhoodCatLady on April 17, 2011 at 10:38 AM

As far as I can tell, there has been no marketing budget for this film at all. I understand the producers are handling distribution. And while it has been a while since I was studying economics of film, 50% sounds way too high to me.

JohnGalt23 on April 17, 2011 at 10:51 AM

As I mentioned elsewhere, this film honestly works best if you have either read the book first or are willing to be receptive to its ideas. If you don’t have either of the two, I can imagine the film being a dreadful bore, especially since it’s only the first part of three and very little that is touched upon is resolved.

Louts like Ebert (and, I presume, most of his mostly worthless cohorts) are neither of the two, and I can understand in that light his hostility toward the film that go outside of the story itself. He doesn’t understand the meaning of the story and likely wanted some kind of resolution to have been presented. Some of the dialogue was a bit forced and there were indications everywhere of the film’s low budget, and that was pretty much the “in” anyone who wants to pan this film needs.

Looking forward to parts two and three.

Red Cloud on April 17, 2011 at 10:53 AM

I have not read any other reviews, just the review headlines. It seems to me that it is almost universally disliked, so I’m going to check it out. For some reason, movies that get terrible reviews always seem to be really good. Movies that get rave reviews are usually not worth even watching the trailer.

I’m going to have to wait until it’s DVD release. I can’t stand movie theaters. Well actually the theater is ok, it’s my dislike of people that is the real problem, lol.

Mord on April 17, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Actually, in a lot of ways, perhaps this movie series will mirror itself. No one wanted to touch this story with a 10-foot pole, and naysayers everywhere said no one would watch it anyway.

Given the success of the film in its limited release, watch the investors come surging in for the remainder of the trilogy.

Red Cloud on April 17, 2011 at 10:55 AM

John Stossel “Atlas Shrugged” sold 500,000.00 copies just last year, that’s 10 times President Obama’s memoir. That’s just one year of sales for a book that is 54 years old.

Dr Evil on April 17, 2011 at 10:55 AM

IowaWoman on April 17, 2011 at 10:48 AM

Agreed….I think it would be tough to follow for those not familiar with the book…. I was pleased that the 1925 showing on Friday night was to a mostly full theater…

t on April 17, 2011 at 10:55 AM

It’s showing here where I’m staying. I guess I’ll skip the driving range and check it out.

hawkdriver on April 17, 2011 at 10:56 AM

Hubby and I saw it last night. Hubby is a Ayn Rand fan and I have to admit, I know of but have not read any of her works.

I think the film works pretty well. I had a few questions that hubby answered that were not addressed in the film, like why was Reardon’s family so weirdly creepy, but all in all it was better than I thought it would be.

Fallon on April 17, 2011 at 10:56 AM

Remember this: “It’s a wonderful life” was a box office BOMB. It has always been one of my favorite films. “Mr. Smith go to Washington” was no block buster either, another favorite of mine. Both had their fair share of bad reviews. I have learned to go to any movie that perks my interest, reviews be dam#ed.

IowaWoman on April 17, 2011 at 10:58 AM

As far as I can tell, there has been no marketing budget for this film at all. I understand the producers are handling distribution. And while it has been a while since I was studying economics of film, 50% sounds way too high to me.

JohnGalt23 on April 17, 2011 at 10:51 AM

It is. Theaters don’t make dick on the price of a ticket. The theater’s moolah is made at the concession stand, which is why the concessions are so heavily advertised before the movie, and why the theaters jealously guard their prerogative to keep people from bringing in outside food and drink.

gryphon202 on April 17, 2011 at 11:01 AM

I’m going to have to wait until it’s DVD release. I can’t stand movie theaters. Well actually the theater is ok, it’s my dislike of people that is the real problem, lol.

Mord on April 17, 2011 at 10:54 AM

That is my problem with going to theaters, the general public has become to hardened for my tastes and I don’t apologize for disliking the public, the public should apologize for becoming so brash.

fourdeucer on April 17, 2011 at 11:01 AM

It’s entirely possible that the reviews were written before they watched the movie -they plugged in actors names afterward LOL! Anyone remember “Passion of the Christ” Mel Gibson had to go around Hollywood to make his movie too. Didn’t Mel Gibson make a pant load of money off of the film the Passion, and didn’t it get terrible reviews?

Dr Evil on April 17, 2011 at 11:02 AM

fourdeucer on April 17, 2011 at 11:01 AM

I agree, while it might be because I’m in MA, people are damn rude and obnoxious lately. It just seems worse in a dark and crowded room when you are trying to pay attention to something.

Mord on April 17, 2011 at 11:08 AM

That is my problem with going to theaters, the general public has become to hardened for my tastes and I don’t apologize for disliking the public, the public should apologize for becoming so brash.
fourdeucer on April 17, 2011 at 11:01 AM

My guess is that you won’t encounter that at this particular movie….

TeresainFortWorth on April 17, 2011 at 11:15 AM

My wife and I saw the film yesterday and were both surprised at how quickly the time passed. I would have guessed, had I been asked, that the film was 2/3 over when it ended. For me, that’s a very good sign.

ncjetsfan on April 17, 2011 at 11:18 AM

Just bought the book for my nook. I want to read it before seeing the movie, and since it’s not showing yet where I live I’ll have time.

StephC on April 17, 2011 at 11:20 AM

Hollywood studios refused to distribute this movie. But they didn’t have any problem distributing Al Gore’s monumental mistake driven film “An Inconvenient Truth”

Nuff Said.

Dr Evil on April 17, 2011 at 11:21 AM

The railroad gonna save us all. More like bullet train to bankruptcy.

Kissmygrits on April 17, 2011 at 11:23 AM

I’m going to have to wait until it’s DVD release. I can’t stand movie theaters. Well actually the theater is ok, it’s my dislike of people that is the real problem, lol.

Mord on April 17, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Agree with you there. My nice sister-in-law gave a “girls night out” and took us to see the Sex and the City movie 2 years ago. We were not too sure about my 80+ Mom. She loved it.Before that it was ” Saving Private Ryan”. Really wanted to see it on a big screen.
I have Netflix now. Put my feet up, make a drink, eat my own popcorn with real butter, and smoke. The plus is having the Dawg on the sofa with me. $15 a month.

katy the mean old lady on April 17, 2011 at 11:28 AM

Thanks, Ed! Many here will trust your review more than those other guys. Besides, most reviews from independents/conservatives/libertarians I’ve seen are mostly in line with yours. Naturally the lefty press is out to kill it.

For a real treat on your next airline trip, you might listen to Edward Hermann‘s narration of Atlas Shrugged (abridged from 63 hours to 11 hours). Having listened to his version several times, I can’t imagine anyone else’s narration being nearly as captivating.

petefrt on April 17, 2011 at 11:31 AM

I’m going to have to wait until it’s DVD release. I can’t stand movie theaters. Well actually the theater is ok, it’s my dislike of people that is the real problem, lol.

Mord on April 17, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Ha, same here. When do you suppose the DVD will come out, near the end of this year?

petefrt on April 17, 2011 at 11:33 AM

katy the mean old lady on April 17, 2011 at 11:28 AM

Netflix rocks, especially the downloadable movie option. And Amazon is right behind them.

petefrt on April 17, 2011 at 11:35 AM

Decent movie, given the pitfalls they had making it.

Saw it yesterday. Took the wife who hasn’t read the book and knows nothing really of Rand or her philosophy.

She enjoyed the movie.

Only one really ham-handed mention of altruism in the whole film, but plenty of other references to collectivism and communism, fairness and equaltiy, etc. which worked well I thought.

You could spend your money on worse films.

Something about the running of the John Galt line though which really struck a chord. Even though CGI was employed, that whole sequence in the movie was filmed quite well and I really enjoyed it.

catmman on April 17, 2011 at 11:38 AM

The review from the Atlantic is right, I wish they had shown why the 20th Century Motor Company fails, not just scoff at the idea of someone running a business with the communist manifesto doesn’t work. They had time to do a little more (only an hour 42 mins), but otherwise I thought it was entertaining if you’ve read the book. If you haven’t read the book you’ll have totally different conceptions of the characters.

cpaulus on April 17, 2011 at 11:40 AM

Red Cloud, like you I believe the movie works best if you have read the book. I went Friday night with my wife and another couple. I was the only person to have read the book in the group. BTW, the theater was fairly full. I had to explain some of the parts of the movie. I sort of felt like my daughter when I went to see Aragon with her. There were parts of the movie that are in the book but not explained in the film.
The best way I can cipher the movie is by checking the reactions of the people I was with. Those who are familiar with and liked the book, probably liked it. My wife thought it was rather boring. The lady with the other couple found it “intriguing”. That was her exact word and when I read Ed Morrissey’s review, I found it interesting that was one of the words he used. She and her husband also could see a lot of the things happening in the movie being things that parallel what is happening today. She is waiting for the second part, but even though she reads a lot, she does not plan to read the book.

duggersd on April 17, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Just a note…

it’s “crony mercantilism,” not “crony capitalism.”

Don’t accept the left’s Orwellian redefinition of terms.

ebrown2 on April 17, 2011 at 10:40 AM

I prefer “political entrepreneur.”

Sharke on April 17, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Saw it and LOVED it.

When I tried reading the book, I had to stop after Chapter 3 because I was so disgusted with the Reardon family and how they treated Hank as well as well as infuriated by the blatant cronyism between industry and government. I actually know people like this and the memories the book awakened were giving me heartburn.

While watching the movie, I both sympathized and empathized with Dagney and Hank. There are so many times that I have felt as alone and outnumbered as they were.

On my bumper are two stickers:
“Who is John Galt?”
“I am John Galt”

I put them there because of the way my company treated me, actually punishing me because I worked harder, put in longer hours, and was better at my job than other employees (who complained that it would be unfair to reward me. Eventually, they started a paper trail and eventually fired me so now I truly am John Galt because my talents have been removed from society.

Knowing about the book, I understood what was really happening and when the movie was over, I said out loud, “Dear GOD, Please tell me they are making Part 2 !!!”

That was when my friend told me that Part 2 comes out April 15th, 2012 and Part 3 on April 15th, 2013.

Now I find that I cannot wait a whole year and am going to dig up my copies of Anthem, The Fountainhead, & Atlas Shrugged and start reading.

I cannot think of a better review than that, so I will shut up, find my books, & tell you to ignore the liberal-bias critics and go see the movie.

TimLenox on April 17, 2011 at 11:46 AM

I bought the hard cover to Atlas some years ago….

And every few years or so I get the courage to crack it open.

About 10 pages and I am hooked again and the journey starts again.

I’m waitig for 2012 to check in again with my friends at Galt’s Gulch and feel closer to them than ever, especially every time I hear Obama speak.

Passion of the Christ was the last movie I actually went out to see…. I may brave it again, though I agree above with movie patrons

golfmann on April 17, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Rereading with the Kindle edition. Reading on my iPad beats the heck out of holding 1000+ page book.

Looking forward to seeing how firm her grip on economics stands up this time. Even 35 years ago, I was underwhelmed with her understanding of how information works in a capitalist society. That was before information itself became such an important product. But you have to have good information to make good decisions, and she really underplayed that at a level of “Do you read your own traffic reports?” “Yes.”

In terms of personal philosophy, I though the Fountainhead worked better than Atlas. YMMV.

BTW, financial numbers come from John Stossel, including the 50% figure for theaters. They may not make money on the movie itself, but they sure do have to pay to get it. Distribution costs! Stossel himself said that he wanted to see at least $100M gross on this to make part 2, and that for anything over $40m, he’d re-invest half in production for parts 2 and 3.

NeighborhoodCatLady on April 17, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Ed M-

Sounds something like TUCKER~ The Man and His Dream.

Any comparison?

Loved that flick.

profitsbeard on April 17, 2011 at 12:08 PM

profitsbeard on April 17, 2011 at 12:08 PM

Funny you should mention that. It’s got a few similarities to Tucker, although the dialogue and the performances in this film are as restrained as they are exuberant in Coppola’s film. Stylistically, they do look somewhat similar, especially in the mix of noir and optimism. And both films highlight the dangers of crony capitalism/mercantilism and how it stamps out competition, innovation, excellence, and concentrates power into non-productive hands.

Ed Morrissey on April 17, 2011 at 12:21 PM

Ed M-

Sounds something like TUCKER~ The Man and His Dream.

Any comparison?

Loved that flick.

profitsbeard on April 17, 2011 at 12:08 PM

Jeff Bridges is a man among men. I thought he did a great job as Preston Tucker, the filmmakers’ artistic license notwithstanding.

The thing about “Tucker” is that it’s a biopic. “Atlas Shrugged” isn’t. Ayn Rand wrote fiction about ideas, and it is those ideas that are reflected in this movie.

gryphon202 on April 17, 2011 at 12:23 PM

And both films highlight the dangers of crony capitalism/mercantilism and how it stamps out competition, innovation, excellence, and concentrates power into non-productive hands.

Ed Morrissey on April 17, 2011 at 12:21 PM

What I found most intriguing about the historical Preston Tucker is that after shooting down so many of his ideas as “crazy,” “unworkable,” “not economical,” etc., it was long after Tucker’s death that the Big Three started working many of those same ideas into their own models (seat belts, fuel injection, et. al). Say what you will about Preston Tucker the man, but in retrospect, most of his ideas had merit.

gryphon202 on April 17, 2011 at 12:29 PM

I’m going to have to wait until it’s DVD release. I can’t stand movie theaters. Well actually the theater is ok, it’s my dislike of people that is the real problem, lol.

Mord on April 17, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Me too. When I was a claims adjuster I had the displeasure of speaking to the president of a major movie theater chain. She was one of the biggest bit#$!s I have ever encountered (and I worked in insurance for 15 years). I vowed at that time to never ever set foot in one of her theaters. And I have not. Last movie I saw at the theater was a free ticket preveiw.

I’m with katythemeanoldlady…. popcorn, drink, couch, smokes and dog. That is the way to watch a moview.

kringeesmom on April 17, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Well thank you Mr. Wizard

darwin-t on April 17, 2011 at 10:44 AM

You’re welcome. Some of you moobs are acting like it is the greatest story ever told. Get a grip.

Blake on April 17, 2011 at 12:30 PM

My wife and I watched the movie Saturday afternoon in the Seattle area. The ticket taker said the movie was quite popular, but I was disappointed that at our showing there were only about 70-80 in the audience. Maybe just because its Seattle, or maybe because it was one of the first nice weather days in the area so far this year.

I thought the movie started a little choppy and disjointed and perhaps the background could have been established better. But after a while it got flowing and was generally very good. There were a couple of points that brought me to tears with the power of the movies portrayal of Rand’s statement. The ending commentary by Wyatt brought some applause from the audience.

As with others who have commented here, my wife has not read the book. Given my own initial impression at the beginning of the movie I was concerned about what she would get from it. But she really appreciated it and completely followed the interplay of collectivists vs producers. She was also taken with Dagny Taggart as the protagonist and wondered why Atlas Shrugged was not a favorite with all the feminist groups, as a strong powerful woman.

We want to see the rest. Hope it makes enough so the story can be completed on film.

mjzman on April 17, 2011 at 12:32 PM

Can somebody that has seen the film tell me what the language was like..
Was it the typical Hollywood film? I know I may sound prudish but I don’t
care for the foul language in most of today’s films.

rich8450 on April 17, 2011 at 12:37 PM

It’s just a movie.

Blake on April 17, 2011 at 10:41 AM

So was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, but it changed history. Pray we have the time for this one to do as well.

Lew on April 17, 2011 at 12:46 PM

Me and the husband are going on a date Wednesday to see it. I’ll let you know what I think of it then.

mizflame98 on April 17, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Like Ed, I went in not expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised. What I found telling was my husband’s reaction… he’s never read the novel. He liked it as well. His only criticism was that some of the characters, especially Ellis Wyatt, weren’t fully explored. I agree. I would’ve preferred a slightly longer movie with more character development.

Kalifornia Kafir on April 17, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Can somebody that has seen the film tell me what the language was like..
Was it the typical Hollywood film? I know I may sound prudish but I don’t
care for the foul language in most of today’s films.

rich8450 on April 17, 2011 at 12:37 PM

Fairly mild, was my impression. I believe they may have used the F-word once, but I don’t remember much beyond that. The characters certainly don’t swear very much.

WesternActor on April 17, 2011 at 12:52 PM

I actually just got back from seeing Atlas Shrugged a little while ago. Much better than I had feared; maybe not quite as good as I’d hoped, but it’s very stylishly and professionally done. The Randian message did not seem to be watered down at all, and with the exception of Edi Gathegi, who doesn’t seem to be quite right as Eddie Willers, the casting was excellent. (I wasn’t even bothered by how young Matthew Marsden ismdash;James Taggart being almost a literal spoiled child in waaay over his head works.) The story is remarkably faithful, too. A few compressions, but very few, if any, outright cuts.

My biggest problem was actually with an addition. Specifically, the addition, the one that explains why all the producers are disappearing. When Dagny arrives at the Wyatt oil fields at the very end of the movie, exactly what’s happening is even spelled out very precisely, and I think that’s a mistake. The mystery of what exactly is happening to these people is central to Part One, then that’s solved and replaced by the more specific question of “Who is doing this?” in Part Two, with Part Three giving the definitive answer to and explanation of that question. I don’t think the beans needed to be spilled that early for the moviegoing audience, and I think that the way the story is structured, with the particular pattern of who leaves and when, will suffer a bit from removing the uncertainty from the equation.

That’s my only real quibble. Otherwise, it’s a very solid film. Updating it to 2016-2017 worked much better than I had anticipated, and the parallels with Obama’s America are both striking and terrifying. I wonder if this movie will do well enough to really open some new eyes to what’s going on? I don’t know, but I hope so.

WesternActor on April 17, 2011 at 12:59 PM

This movie isn’t playing anywhere within 50 miles of me. :(

Hope it comes out of dvd.

HondaV65 on April 17, 2011 at 1:01 PM

I’m going to have to wait until it’s DVD release. I can’t stand movie theaters. Well actually the theater is ok, it’s my dislike of people that is the real problem, lol.

Mord on April 17, 2011 at 10:54 AM

That is my problem with going to theaters, the general public has become to hardened for my tastes and I don’t apologize for disliking the public, the public should apologize for becoming so brash.

fourdeucer on April 17, 2011 at 11:01 AM

This movie draws a different crowd. Most people were middle-aged and everyone was polite throughout the movie and applauded at the end. I’ve heard many reports from other people that say the same thing so you may want to try it.

My husband and I and our 18 and 19-year old kids saw it yesterday. I was the only one who had read the book (a long time ago). We all loved the movie. It was very well done and not the cheesy indie movie the critics say it is.

The first thing my son said was that he was going to read the book and he snagged it as soon as we got home. So I guess my reread will have to wait a while.

None of my family members had any difficulty following the story or characters despite not having read the book. The message was very clear – over-regulation and redistribution of wealth harm everyone in the economy.

I highly recommend the movie. If it’s not in your area yet, go to the official site and put in a request. We are fortunate in CO to have it in 6 theaters including our neighborhood.

Common Sense on April 17, 2011 at 1:12 PM

A guy from Haddonfield, New Jersey, outside Phildelphia, got the movie made. He financed it pretty much himself. He paid $1 million for the rights years ago, and his rights were about to expire last year and he could not find a major studio interested in making it. So he did it himself, in record time and with a very small budget.

“Atlas Shrugged’ film born of sheer will, the Ayn Rand way

rockmom on April 17, 2011 at 1:13 PM

I agree strongly with the entire review. The film well captures the contrasting melancholy and optimism of the novel, while setting a nice, brisk pace. Casting is as good as it gets. When the John Galt line made its inaugural run, I caught my daughter wiping away tears. I felt it too.

Government is represented in the film as academic, indifferent, and clueless. Whenever I hear something about Obama’s ‘czars’ I think of Kip Chalmers and Cuffy Meigs. Not often one can really like a film with a message, but I sure liked this one. And, like Clockwork Orange before it, it’s in danger of coming true.

Roger Ebert actually criticized the film for not showing more skin. Well, any movie that soars so stratospherically high over Ebert’s puddin head, that’s a film for thinking people.

wkgdyw on April 17, 2011 at 1:13 PM

….She was also taken with Dagny Taggart as the protagonist and wondered why Atlas Shrugged was not a favorite with all the feminist groups, as a strong powerful woman…..
mjzman on April 17, 2011 at 12:32 PM

But she is not a strong, powerful, liberal victim. NOW and other feminist groups have solidly established themselves as strictly liberal groups, with no concern for women’s issues that don’t adhere to the liberal mindset.

Unfortunately, it’s not showing within 250 miles of us here in West Texas (yet). Hopefully soon.

iurockhead on April 17, 2011 at 1:14 PM

theaters and distribution channels will take 50% off the top.

NeighborhoodCatLady on April 17, 2011 at 10:38 AM

As I understand it, the reason films are so heavily promoted before their release is that they want the theaters packed for the first week, when the studios get 100% of the profits. After the first week, the theaters get a cut that grows over time.
That’s what I’ve heard from a few different sources, but if I’m wrong, someone please step in & correct me!

itsnotaboutme on April 17, 2011 at 1:15 PM

Can somebody that has seen the film tell me what the language was like..
Was it the typical Hollywood film? I know I may sound prudish but I don’t
care for the foul language in most of today’s films.

rich8450 on April 17, 2011 at 12:37 PM

Fairly mild, was my impression. I believe they may have used the F-word once, but I don’t remember much beyond that. The characters certainly don’t swear very much.

WesternActor on April 17, 2011 at 12:52 PM

I don’t remember any F-bombs — the worst word I heard was one perfectly justified use of “bulls***!” from Ellis Wyatt. (IMHO, Grant Beckel gave an outstanding performance as Ellis Wyatt — one of the best in the film.)

As for other R-rated stuff, the two s*x scenes in the film were tastefully done, not too long or voyeuristic, and integral to the plot.

Mary in LA on April 17, 2011 at 1:24 PM

I wish they had shown why the 20th Century Motor Company fails, not just scoff at the idea of someone running a business with the communist manifesto doesn’t work.
– cpaulus

rats. I loved everything about the movie until you said that. But you’re right, that was too easy. Hoping it was a set-up and we’ll hear more in a subsequent film.

wkgdyw on April 17, 2011 at 1:26 PM

rich8450 on April 17, 2011 at 12:37 PM

Someone said they heard an F-Bomb, I don’t remember that. I think Someone said shite once and BS once.

Other than that, pretty tame.

catmman on April 17, 2011 at 1:30 PM

As entertainment, however, the novel has its problems, and even the most determined reader can find getting through the book’s massive size a daunting and patience-testing task.

It’s not the size; it’s the Soviet-level dialogue.

Kralizec on April 17, 2011 at 1:33 PM

it’s “crony mercantilism,” not “crony capitalism.”

Don’t accept the left’s Orwellian redefinition of terms.

ebrown2 on April 17, 2011 at 10:40 AM

Crony mercantilism is redundant.

ernesto on April 17, 2011 at 1:35 PM

I don’t remember any F-bombs — the worst word I heard was one perfectly justified use of “bulls***!” from Ellis Wyatt. (IMHO, Grant Beckel gave an outstanding performance as Ellis Wyatt — one of the best in the film.)

As for other R-rated stuff, the two s*x scenes in the film were tastefully done, not too long or voyeuristic, and integral to the plot.

Mary in LA on April 17, 2011 at 1:24 PM

Maybe it’s Wyatt’s outburst that I’m thinking of. I remember the fact that it was happening sticking out because it was the only instance of truly harsh language that I noticed—but I think I might have just gotten the actual word mixed up.

And I agree about the sex scenes, for what it’s worth. That’s one of the areas which Rand, um, explored in great detail in her writing, and so far what we’ve seen is a lot gentler than that.

WesternActor on April 17, 2011 at 1:36 PM

petefrt on April 17, 2011 at 11:31 AM

Thank you for the recommendation for the audiobook (abridged) version. I’ve been looking for something for family and friends who are interested but cannot or will not commit to an 1100 page book and this looks like a good bet.

As for the movie; saw it. I liked it and found it entertaining. I saw a mix of old and young in the audience, even some families. But I went with someone who had not read the book.

As others have remarked, I don’t think this was as intellgible or entertaining for those who have not read the book (or other Rand books); I had to explain several issues and events.

My major worry is that while the book can be (and frequently is) a life altering event for its readers, the movie is not. Oddly, while Rand prose was too prolix and her books could have used quite a bit of editing, her ideas don’t seem as compelling compressed on the big screen where you almost feel like you’re being hit over the head with the message and the looters are almost cartoonish. It may be too easy to dismiss her ideas for those who are not already predisposed. That said I will go see parts 2 and 3.

Best scene, IMHO the scene where Hank’s brother asks for money.

Firefly_76 on April 17, 2011 at 1:38 PM

rats. I loved everything about the movie until you said that. But you’re right, that was too easy. Hoping it was a set-up and we’ll hear more in a subsequent film.

wkgdyw on April 17, 2011 at 1:26 PM

As I remember, Dagny hears the story of how 20th Century Motors fails later on in the book from a bum she gives a ride to. He was a former employee. Happens late in part 2 or maybe even part 3.

trigon on April 17, 2011 at 1:39 PM

Rotten Tomatoes has Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 at 10% Fresh. Up from 6% before the weekend.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/atlas_shrugged_part_i/

This film has the potential to be another Passion Of The Christ in viewings between the coasts. Many of the left’s heavy hitting movie critics have chimed in, but I believe that Shrugged will do quite well.

Jack Deth on April 17, 2011 at 1:40 PM

HDFOB on April 17, 2011 at 12:41 PM

I remember watching a docu on that. I could not believe my eyes.

I think that’s every man’s destruction fantasy. This guy went off the deep end and did it. If he hadn’t have killed himself I think he would be a bit of a martyr in prison.

Free Constitution on April 17, 2011 at 1:55 PM

Well, its grossed almost $1.7 million and the weekend isn’t over yet.

The per screen average had almost doubled ($5,590) since I last saw figures from Friday.

Seems like financially, it’s doing just fine.

catmman on April 17, 2011 at 1:56 PM

I called both of our theaters to request the movie. The one theater didn’t have a clue what the movie was. The other one said “As of now we are not but keep checking back.”

JellyToast on April 17, 2011 at 1:56 PM

My major worry is that while the book can be (and frequently is) a life altering event for its readers, the movie is not. Oddly, while Rand prose was too prolix and her books could have used quite a bit of editing, her ideas don’t seem as compelling compressed on the big screen where you almost feel like you’re being hit over the head with the message and the looters are almost cartoonish. It may be too easy to dismiss her ideas for those who are not already predisposed. That said I will go see parts 2 and 3.

I agree with your overall impression of the film, though I think I liked it more than you did. I will say, though, that I actually think the looters in the movie come across as less cartoonish than in the books. Characters like Wesley Mouch and Baph Eubank and even James Taggart almost have comically dry and unhinged personalities in the book, but the movie made them a bit more human to me. Not less sinister, but a bit more like you could get a grip on why they were doing things. That’s one of the things I liked about the movie—in our real world, and particularly in the upper echelons of today’s Democratic Party, the ones killing you are always the ones who insist they’re doing it for your own good. The movie made that explicit, in today’s language, and I didn’t miss the overstuffed nature of those folks from the book at all.

WesternActor on April 17, 2011 at 1:59 PM

WesternActor on April 17, 2011 at 1:59 PM

Good points. I really did like the film. It was worth making and if it can get people reading the book or shorter works like Anthem, all the better. I was just hoping I’d love it.

Noticed though that viewing rates have really fallen off since opening night. I really want to see this film make a profit — enough to justify parts 2 and 3. I’ll buy more tix (and not go to the movie) if I have to :-)

Firefly_76 on April 17, 2011 at 2:12 PM

Firefly_76 on April 17, 2011 at 1:38 PM

There’s also an unabridged version (63 hours versus 11 hours for the abridged) of the audio book. But it’s by a different narrator, unfortunately. Hermann‘s version is just marvelous.

IMO, a good way to introduce friends to it would be Hermann’s abridged version. Chances are it will stir them to move on to the unabridged version, or some other of Rand’s works.

petefrt on April 17, 2011 at 2:13 PM

Firefly_76 on April 17, 2011 at 2:12 PM

I want it to make big money too.

In my dreams, Sarah Palin does a tour to promote it. I haven’t thought it through, but it might be a good move for her. And it would certainly help the movie.

petefrt on April 17, 2011 at 2:16 PM

As entertainment, however, the novel has its problems, and even the most determined reader can find getting through the book’s massive size a daunting and patience-testing task.

Thank you Ed! As I posted in the other thread, I was starting to think I was missing something as I am finding it hard to finish the book. Though some commenters have given me some good suggestions on her other works. Her We The Living sounds like an interesting read.

Gyro on April 17, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Minor spoilers ahead, so skip this if you’re so inclined.

Taylor Schilling should get an Oscar nomination for her performance, but will never happen. The scene with the union thug was played to perfection, and her primal scream upon seeing Wyatt’s Torch for the first time brought one phrase from the book into spine-tingling reality.

Finally, I think the film makers left out one very important opportunity to expose the hypocricy of the left.

In the book, when Dagny leaves Taggart Transcontinental to build the John Galt Line, she leaves Eddie Willers behind as the Acting VP of Operations over brother James’ objections. To James, Eddie just wasn’t good enough, didn’t come from the right background, etc.

In the movie, Dagny takes Eddie with her to the JGL over James’ objections. This wouldn’t matter to the significance of the change except that Eddie was cast (very well, IMO) using an African American actor. I would have really loved for Dagny to be able to close the discussion of Eddie as acting VP by declaring, “You just don’t want him because he’s black.”

The apoplexy of the left over doing that would have been worth the additional “controversy” of doing it.

allanbourdius on April 17, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Noticed though that viewing rates have really fallen off since opening night

WesternActor, can you provide a link? All I have are the stats from 4/15 – which are projections derived from Fandango, I think – from Box Office Mojo.

BCrago66 on April 17, 2011 at 2:32 PM

Crony mercantilism is redundant.

ernesto on April 17, 2011 at 1:35 PM

For once, you actually make a pertinent point. I’ll go with just “mercantilism” or “political entrepreneur” as suggested above.

ebrown2 on April 17, 2011 at 2:43 PM

Allow me to correct myself. Here’s Box Office Mojo’s updated projections:

“Domestic Total as of Apr. 17, 2011: $1,677,000″

http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=atlasshrugged.htm

As of 4/15, the figure was $675,000. So the movie seems to be holding up pretty well, particularly considering that movies typically get the biggest bang on opening day.

BCrago66 on April 17, 2011 at 2:45 PM

Her We The Living sounds like an interesting read.

Gyro on April 17, 2011 at 2:30 PM

It was engrossing. A look at the burgeoning communist Soviet Russia, told in a tale of fiction though some have said it is ‘semi’ auto-biographical.

If I’m being honest, it is probably her best fiction work (IMO). It is a novel (her first) and isn’t full of any nascent philosophy as is The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

A good read.

catmman on April 17, 2011 at 2:59 PM

I’ve never read the book. Been kinda scared to just because so many people have said how long and drawn out it is. I might just have to suck it up do it, so I can see what all the hoopla about this book is about.

vcferlita on April 17, 2011 at 3:00 PM

The book’s sales rank on Amazon has gone from 8th to 4th in the last 24 hours. Think it might make No. 1?

Owen Glendower on April 17, 2011 at 3:03 PM

Glad you liked it, Ed; I did, too. And the more I reflect on it, the more I like it. In fact, I think I’ll go see it again.

It’s been 45 years since I read the book, but the first thing I did when I got home was pull my dusty old paperback copy with the missing back cover (the book’s 17th printing) down from the top shelf. I look forward to seeing what they do with the rest of the novel. Bet they have bigger budgets for Parts II and III.

SukieTawdry on April 17, 2011 at 3:06 PM

TimLenox on April 17, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Thank you.

To some here…it’s Dagny, not Dagney.

Schadenfreude on April 17, 2011 at 3:06 PM

I have read Atlas Shrugged and listend to it on audio book..the book is a life changer for me. I took my wife to the movie yesterday, and she LOVED the movie even though she has never read a page of Rand in her life.

We need to support this film by spreading the word to everyone we know. Oh, Dagny is pretty hot. (:

magic kingdom on April 17, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Audible.com has the audio version , all 60 hrs, if you sign up.

magic kingdom on April 17, 2011 at 3:09 PM

If you have not read the books yet, start with The Fountainhead.

A. Rand was a brilliant Russian mind. This made her style somewhat turgid.

Still, hardly anyone could/can write English more beautifully and the ideas are spot on for the travesties of today, the world over. Sadly, so soon, the U.S. succumbod to the looters and the moochers too.

Over 50% pay no taxes, yet received “rebates”, the leeches. Holder and his brother don’t pay their taxes and etc.

crr6 and yours, you can all go straight to socialist he*l. The rest of us go gulching.

Schadenfreude on April 17, 2011 at 3:10 PM

Oh, Dagny is pretty hot. (:

magic kingdom on April 17, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Not nearly as hot, not even close, not phisically, nor mentally, as Ayn’s Dagny.

Schadenfreude on April 17, 2011 at 3:12 PM

Dagny confronts the Union.

This alone should get you to see the movie! :)

catmman on April 17, 2011 at 3:20 PM

The per screen average is extraordinary.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating is hilarious.

Both make sense.

rrpjr on April 17, 2011 at 3:26 PM

If you have not read the books yet, start with The Fountainhead.

Schadenfreude on April 17, 2011 at 3:10 PM

I went through my Rand stage in college and did, indeed, start with The Fountainhead. Read that one from cover-to-cover. Read it through classes, ate my meals alone so I could continue reading, read through one night and into the next one. I’ve re-read it several times since and it remains one of my favorite books of all time. I’d love to have Anglialoro tackle that one next as the Hollywood version is a travesty.

SukieTawdry on April 17, 2011 at 3:26 PM

I’d love to have Anglialoro tackle that one next as the Hollywood version is a travesty.

SukieTawdry on April 17, 2011 at 3:26 PM

Indeed.

Schadenfreude on April 17, 2011 at 3:29 PM

When the novel was first published in 1957, the rail industry was still a central key to the American economy. The film takes place in the near future, starting in 2016, and cleverly uses a global energy crisis to return rail to a central position in American industry.

Trains run on oil too.

HTH.

crr6 on April 17, 2011 at 3:29 PM

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