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Atlas Shrugged is worth your time and money

Posted by Richard on April 17, 2011

I saw Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, this weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it, despite its shortcomings. I'll be frank, the limited budget and rushed schedule definitely show. But they don't detract from a great story for the most part well told. If you read and liked the novel, you'll love the film and it's a must-see. If you never read it (shame on you!), but you're inclined toward libertarian, free-market conservative, or Tea Party thinking, likewise.

If you hated the book and/or are basically an Obama-loving Socialist Democrat — well, you wouldn't like the film no matter how lavish or excellent a production it was.

Because of the budget constraints, the film keeps outdoor scenes to a minimum and relies on a lot of stock footage. It's mostly stock footage of Colorado (plus some rail yards and steel mills), so that's not so bad.

Taylor Schilling is excellent as Dagny Taggart, and Grant Bowler is quite good as Hank Rearden. I was disappointed with Jsu Garcia's Francisco D'Anconia. OTOH, Rebecca Wisocky does a fine job as Lillian Rearden.

Graham Beckel is a terrific Ellis Wyatt. He's one of those fine character actors you've probably seen many times, but never remember his name. I didn't know, until hearing him interviewed by Hugh Hewitt recently, that he's the brother of Democratic operative Bob Beckel. He doesn't share his brother's political views.

The villains are all suitably smarmy and villainous, although I thought Matthew Marsden's James Taggart wasn't sufficiently whiny and dependent. It was clear that Dagny's brother was incompetent and useless, but not why. That's one of the problems with bringing this novel to the screen: there's little time to explore the psychology of the characters (and the psychology of the villains is an important aspect of Atlas Shrugged). So the burden falls on the actor to understand his character's psyche and convey it with every look, gesture, and word. Marsden didn't do that. 

When a 1000-page novel is brought to the screen, somebody's favorite vignette or subplot is going to be left out or glossed over. I was disappointed that the story of the 20th Century Motor Company was given such short shrift. That section also contained a bit of dialogue that made me wince: a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about the motor that Dagny and Hank found. They should have axed the nonsense about "vacuum pressure," simply said, "it looks like it's designed to extract static electricity from the air," and left it at that.

I also didn't like the way the meeting with Hugh Akston was handled or the way Michael O'Keefe portrayed him.

Enough quibbling. I was quite pleased overall. The film did a good job — a remarkably good job, given the constraints — of telling the first third of the story. And the ending was outstanding. An intense, moving scene that Taylor Schilling handled superbly.

It left me absolutely looking forward to Part 2, which will benefit from a somewhat bigger budget and much less rushed schedule. It's due to be released on April 15, 2012. Just in time to fire up all the fans for the election season.

See my previous post for links to find a theater, watch the trailer and clips, etc. 

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4 Responses to “Atlas Shrugged is worth your time and money”

  1. Kathryn Ventura said

    Thank you for verbalizing my feelings about the movie. I agree about the motor segment and do not unstandstand why the reason for the closing was not more clear”-from each according to their abilty to each according to their need”-how hard is that to say. I first read ATLAS SHRUGGED in 1960 when I was sixteen NO at the end of the movie I cried , in anger because it is too close to wher we are today and I don’t see any heroes.

  2. Galty as Charged said

    I though Jsu Garcia did a fine job. He isn’t supposed to appear as noble as you’d expect, or he wouldn’t be able to play the dissolute playboy in the world.

    Didn’t like the presentation of Hugh Akston though. Seemed to strike the wrong emotional note, though the written dialog seemed okay to me.

  3. rgcombs said

    Kathryn: You’re right — if they’d just stated the Marxist creed, it would have been better. I guess there’s no way to fit the whole 20th Century Motor Co. story into the film. But I’d like to see it more widely disseminated because I think it concretizes the evil consequences of collectivism so perfectly. If I owned the rights to ”Atlas Shrugged,” I’d put that excerpt on the web and make sure that it ranked high in the search results for that phrase, “marxist creed,” etc.

    Galty: The second time I saw it, Garcia’s performance didn’t seem so bad. I still didn’t see the glimmer of the man Francisco used to be, and that should show through. As for the Akston scene, I don’t like that they did it in the parking lot. He should have been behind the counter of the diner, expertly preparing a burger. 🙂

    Thank you both for dropping by. Have you gone to see it a second time? If not, you should.

  4. Ralph said

    Check out some background on Rand and world Libs at http://www.Libertarian-International.org

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