Taylor Schilling, Michael O'Keefe, Grant Bowler, Michael Marsden, Graham Beckel, Michael Lerner
John Aglialoro, Brian Patrick O'Toole, Ayn Rand
Rocky Mountain Pictures
Road to Atlas Shrugged;
I Am John Galt;
"The John Galt Theme" Slideshow;
Commentary with John Aglialoro, Brian Patrick O'Toole and Harmon Kaslow
Atlas shrugged. So did I. In fact, I may have even nodded off for a few moments during the course of this glorified made-for-television movie that somehow found its way into a limited nationwide run. The first in a planned trilogy based upon Rand's literary work, Atlas Shrugged Part 1 is a labor of love with emphasis on the word labor. Virtually every frame of the film feels labored and antiquated.
The film takes place in 2016, where an American economy is in wild disarray and poverty has widened its impact. Steel is a relevant industry (No, this isn't a fantasy!) and newspapers somehow still have a role in society (Okay, maybe it is a fantasy!). Dagny (Taylor Schilling) is tasked with saving the railroad firm that her brother has run into the ground, to be best accomplished by laying new steel lines courtesy of the steel of Rearden Steel and Henry Rearden (Grant Bowler). Eventually, laying other things will come into play.
Big government will become an obstacle, of course, especially done courtesy of characters portrayed by Michael Lerner and Jon Polito, essentially here as caricatures of misguided and controlling government. Dagny and Henry will succeed, on their own terms thank you very much, if only they can overcome that darn oppressive government.
Yes, oh yes, the sarcasm is starting to set in.
Atlas Shrugged is an easily set aside motion picture that is far better in its production aspects than it is in virtually any other way with what may very well be the weakest ensemble cast yet in 2011. Taylor Schilling is appropriately controlled, however, she offers little in the way of personality to her role as the rail company CEO. While personality isn't exactly the foundation of anything associated with Ayn Rand, there is a certain passion contained within the writing that is simply missing here. Fortunately for Schilling, nobody else in the cast fares any better and her functionally adequate performance fits nicely within a cast where the word functional is the only descriptor that works.
Director Paul Johansson seemingly has no clue how to bring this magnificent beast to life, and while it's easy to accept that part of its incompleteness is simply that envisioned but unlikely trilogy it's also entirely probable that Johansson was simply in over his head here.
While one wouldn't have expected a film that would be championed by anyone left of center, one could have easily expected that Atlas Shrugged Part 1 could have served a a wee bit of a rallying cry for conservatives or, at least, as a source of dialogue for high school and college lit teachers who have struggled for years to get students to connect with this material. There's so little life contained within this film that Johansson's greatest accomplishment, sarcasm noted, may be that he has somehow turned Ayn Rand's novel into something unfathomably boring and ordinary.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic