Atlas Shrugged: Part I (2011)
A powerful railroad executive, Dagny Taggart, struggles to keep her business alive while society is crumbling around her. Based on the 1957 novel by Ayn Rand.
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This is a very good film but the whole thing falls apart spectacularly in the second installment because they used all different actors to carry the same story along-a story that loses its edge and becomes commonplace in the second film. That being said this film captures the essence of Anne Rands work-a writer who was ahead of her time and a person who had a unique vision of the future. Her style was apparent in the first film but the change of personnel didn't maintain the same feeling that existed in the first film with regards it being a definitive representation of Anne Rand's work. Some people won't mind the funny way they executed this multi film project- its still something to watch when its cold outside type of thing-but others, like myself think they could have done better and should have tried more to do the project more professionally. I can remember this being advertised but I cannot remember it ever being on any screens anywhere around after it was released. Usually I don't miss the more interesting films. The thing that is a resounding issue in the work of Anne Rand is she is basically a 'new romantic' writer even though she described herself as an "objectivist" and considered her work as a way to promote 'a new philosophy of Objectivism.' She was a different type of writer.
I saw this a week ago, and now that I have stared, openmouthed in horror, at that travesty of a Part II, I feel I can appreciate this movie. For one thing, the casting--Dagny is lovely. She is cool and contained and lovely--an empress of steel. When she calls Jim "brother dear," the blood chills a little. When she and Hank (we'll get to him in a moment) interact, it's significantly less gag-worthy than it was in the book. She is about as human as the written Dagny will get, and the fact that it was a B-list star makes it better--I have a fresh canvas, a totally new impression. I don't look at her and think "oh, that's Reese Witherspoon" or "Oh, that's Angelina"--I think "Oh, that's Dagny." Oh, Dagny, would that they had kept you--you and your finely molded, sublimely interesting face. Would that they had not foisted upon me in your place a wrinkled, falsie-wearing imitation. Hank, meanwhile, is not quite as I had pictured him--but he's enough. He's in good shape, he's cleanshaven, he's just about old enough, he has an interesting, keen face and a clear, no-nonsense voice. He is as good as a low-budget film version of Hank is going to get, appearance-wise, and his acting is brilliant. His very eyebrows speak volumes. His interactions with Lillian are on point--the scene where he rolls off of her and she carelessly adjusts her strap is great. The rest of them are fairly well-cast as well. I particularly appreciate Lillian--visually, she's on-point: almost beautiful, but with some jarring absence, some imperfection. This is very well realized here. Francisco I found a little disorienting, mainly because of the hair, but he played the part like a pro. James is a departure from what I imagined--I always thought older, less attractive. His cheekbones startled me. Nevertheless, he and Dagny pass well for siblings. The scenery is great, and the atmosphere is as good as time constraints allow--it could, as someone else noted, do with a little more desperation, a little more fear, but one must allow that this was fairly early on in the book and everyone still thought Socialism would work. Bottom line: a masterpiece? Probably not. But did they take what they had and use it as well as they could? I think they at least came damn close. They even managed to pump a little blood, put a little humanity into the film. I commend them. My final words: quit while you're ahead. It only gets worse. Much much worse. Take this Dagny, this Hank, this Lillian and James and Francisco, and savor them. Savor them while you still can. Because before you know they've all aged thirty years and Hank sounds like a smoke-choked version of the Godfather.
Though not an objectivist, I have an interest in the philosophy or belief system. Since seeing the 1940s movie "The Fountainhead" some years ago I have been waiting for the movie adaptation of "Atlas Shrugged". Well, my wait was rewarded with the issuance of Part I, but I noticed that this movie did not receive much publicity. Well, Hollywood is full of dreamers and socialists who cannot or will not face reality so I figured that was the reason. It wasn't. This movie goes to such lengths to show the Objectivist philosophy that it, ironically, actually breaks completely with reality. This should never have been filmed.The movie starts by showing the conditions of the American economy of 2016 and the problems faced in this economy. It is a somewhat unrealistic in how grim the economy of 2016 is portrayed but that does not go beyond the bounds of belief. The situation develops into a crisis where a railroad firm that needs to replace some very old track in Colorado. The movie implies that this old track is a century old. I doubt that any rails that old are left in place in real life but that is not the primary problem with this movie. What is the primary problem is that we have a railroad executive and deciding to use a new metal that is advertised as lighter and stronger than the metal used up to that time for rails. This metal is untested and unproved yet the executive goes with her (yes, the executive is a woman and strong willed women are found in Ayn Ryn's works; as can be expected due to the author) hunch. If she is right there is a tremendous improvement in the rail business; if she is wrong the railroad will go out of business. The manufacturer of this metal has a full factory dedicated to its production.This whole situation is insane!! We are asked to suspend disbelief and assume that somebody is using an untried metal in an endeavor with public safety concerns?! That would not even be allowed due to issues of it affecting the good of the people. By even using the objectivist criteria this concept is still insane. A company would go out of business if this metal fails, so would it not be in the self-interest of the owner of the railroad to have it tested before he/she commits to it? Of course it would! Metal or metallurgical testing is a very developed science. To use an untested metal (this is the first commercial use of the metal no less) on a major project that involves public safety is not the decision of a self-interested person with vision but rather that of a deluded individual who probably has visions due to hallucinations! I know of the qualification requirements for use of new materials and everybody (objectivist or socialist) agrees the process should be very thorough. This movie is so far off that there is no way it could be viewed as realistic. There is a limit to suspension of disbelief and this movie goes beyond that limit. Objectivism or socialism or any other philosophy is not proved or disproven by this movie as it is just too unrealistic. Sad.
(Disclaimer...I posted this, my first and only review under a different user name and have since combined accounts and am re-posting this review, unchanged.)VERY minor spoilers maybe...Atlas Shrugged is a massive book and a pretty big read for somebody as young as I was when I read it. I have long felt it would be nearly impossible to make into a movie. Not only because of the scope and depth of the novel, but also because chapter long speeches (thinly veiled as a speech by a character but clearly laying out Ayn Rand's philosophy) would not make for great cinema. I also never thought there would be a wide enough audience to justify the expense of the kind of production it would take to convey the story without a major hatchet job to the original material. The book resonated for me and I think led to helping form my philosophy of life. Don't get me wrong, it has never dominated my thoughts or tempted me to join the Objectivist movement, though I have identified with Ayn Rand's core beliefs. Perhaps not to the extreme, but the foundation of her philosophy is much the way I feel and try to live my life. I suspect the movie would be much more difficult to swallow for someone who has not read the book but I rather enjoyed it. I gave it only a six based on the actual production value and not based on my impression of how well it followed the book, which it did, though hardly inclusively. If I could give it 6.5 I would. There is little passion in the acting, though I don't feel Taylor Schilling was as stilted and dry as others here have implied. As in the book, Dagny Taggart is a very driven and businesslike lady but not a robot. The Rogues Gallery of actors portraying the politicians bent on 'leveling the playing field' are the usual typecast actors playing the same role they play in every movie I've ever seen them in. The leads do a serviceable job, but I think their roles are kind of dictated by the need to cram as much information into a 90 minute movie as possible. To the filmmakers credit they don't use an excessive amount of flashy and annoying quick-cut MTV edits that are so popular today. That makes my head spin. Guess my age is showing. There are actually lingering establishing shots and decent visuals. There isn't much time to actually feel invested in the characters though. An earlier review stated that characters in the movie have, "More depth & complexity than the book." Wow, did we read the same book!? Entire chapters of character development have necessarily been left out of a movie that would take twelve hours to cover the source material properly. As a stand-alone movie it struggles to draw the viewer in and it feels a little soulless. It does succeed, rather haltingly, in conveying the protagonist's feeling (and the author's philosophy) that each person should succeed or fail on their own merits and the government shouldn't exist to redistribute wealth and opportunity. I feel much the same way. The grand conspiracy within the halls of government and the ease with which public opinion is swayed is bit much for me to swallow but I can see the seeds of it existing in reality. Rand's loathing of the communist agenda is clearly the core of this, but again if you haven't read the book then perhaps it is not immediately obvious. As someone who DID enjoy and identify with the novel, not to mention having read many of her works(some of which are pretty dry) I look forward to the remaining parts of this movie in the hopes that once we know the characters we will enjoy it a little more. Short of making a 12 part mini-series out of it, I think this is the best we can hope for out of an adaptation of a work this large.