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ATLAS SHRUGGED PART I is surprisingly entertaining to the credit of the filmmakers. The drama is compelling, and the jeopardy and mystery hold attention. That said, some of the dialogue is static and reflects the nature of a political treatise instead of perfect storytelling. ATLAS SHRUGGED is extremely timely, however. MOVIEGUIDE(r) would recommend it to all ages were it not for some foul language and a subplot involving adultery.
(BB, CapCapCap, PP, ACACAC, FR, LL, V, S, N, A, D, M) Strong moral worldview with extreme capitalist, free market content and philosophy and strong traditional values with an emphasis on integrity, loyalty, self-government, liberty, clear opposition to Communism, socialism, government manipulation but a foggy moral and philosophical confusion about eleemosynary or philanthropic individual charity; 12 light obscenities and one gratuitous profanity but no Christian bashing; no fighting violence but documentary scenes of collapsing American infrastructure such as bridges, buildings and displaced people in the streets; adulterous sex and marital sex; upper male nudity and a low-cut dress; lots of alcohol use; smoking but no drugs; and, smarmy Washington bureaucrats, politicians and evil sycophants lie, cheat and steal.
ATLAS SHRUGGED PART I, the first of three movies based on the famous novel by Ayn Rand, is one of the few slightly flawed movies that MOVIEGUIDE urges every teenager and adult to see. It is entertaining and chock full of jeopardy, which is unique for a movie with such a clear perspective about political and economic issues.
James Taggart and his sister, Dagny, inherited their family railroad company. Because of government intervention in the marketplace, the infrastructure of the United States is falling apart, and it is hard to keep the railway running. In fact, right at the beginning, there is a break in one of the tracks and a horrendous derailment. The government cronies, of course, want to impose more burdens and squeeze more life out of the railroad. For instance, they have to pay their employees more but charge less, so the point at which they’re just bleeding money has long since passed. Their largest client, Ellis Wyatt, a Colorado oil baron, is threatening to take his business elsewhere.
James “Jim” Taggart, is a government sycophant. He works with a slimy lobbyist named Wesley Mouch to try to enact laws that will protect his business by putting his competitors out of business. These laws have highfalutin public relations names like the Equalization of Opportunity Act (compare this name to what our sitting US Congress recently passed called the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act”), and Mouch explains how these names cover up the real motive of the acts, which is to grab more power by government.
Dagny, however, wants to succeed, to improve the rail line and to serve their customers. She understands that the government is destroying everything, and she’s willing to stand up to the petty dictators in Washington. She has decided to buy a new steel alloy from Henry “Hank” Rearden. His new steel alloy is better, more easily produced, costs less, and can replace the rotting track on the critical Colorado section line.
Rearden is another person who believes in hard work, private property and serving his clients. He has a representative in Washington who works as his lobbyist, but he doesn’t realize that representative is a traitor, namely the aforementioned Mouch. Orren Boyle, one of Taggart’s cronies, owns a competing steel mill and encourages Taggart to get the government to pass laws to punish Rearden. They sic the State Science Institute on Rearden, which publishes articles questioning the safety of his steel. For example, the State Science Institutes determines that if Rearden’s metal is “not a physical danger, then it’s a ‘social’ danger.”
Dagny and Rearden go ahead, however, and repair the line in record time. Against all odds, including union and government thuggery, they show that “Rearden metal” is the best by running a high-speed train across the line. This success delights the oil baron, Ellis Wyatt.
Then, they find out things are not as simple as they think. Throughout the movie, the best and the brightest have been asking, “Who is John Galt?” Then, the people suddenly disappear. Eventually, these mysterious disappearances threaten Rearden and Dagny’s future.
ATLAS SHRUGGED PART I is surprisingly entertaining, and the filmmakers are to be commended. Alfred Hitchcock used to say the best books make the worst movies, and some of the best-selling books have bombed as movies, such as BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES, THE NAME OF THE ROSE and THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL. Why did they bomb? Because books often succeed by being complex, layered and epic, but movies have to tell a simple, straight-ahead story in a very short timeframe. Thus, when people want to make a complex book like the Bible into a word for word movie, we instruct them it’s much better to make a sermon, such as PASSION OF THE CHRIST, that makes people want to read the Bible itself.
That said, the filmmakers kept a lot of the story from Ayn Rand’s story and found a through-line. They also avoided some of the negative aspects of Ayn Rand that alienate people of strong faith and values. They emphasize cardinal virtues such as self-reliance, integrity, honesty, strength of character, liberty, and justice. And, they did not include any of her confused attacks on faith.
The drama is compelling, and the jeopardy and mystery hold your attention. That said, some of the dialogue is static and, as one other reviewers said, it clunks because Ayn Rand often clunks, since she was not just writing a novel; she was also writing a political treatise.
Because we have lost an understanding of these cardinal virtues and freedom, and have given in to the lies of the government, ATLAS SHRUGGED is extremely relevant to what’s happening in the world today. It would be nice to say all ages should watch it, but MOVIEGUIDE® must point out several cautions. The worst is the adulterous sex, although nothing is really shown. There are also several obscenities and one explicit profanity. Without these, this movie would have been good for all ages, although younger children may not have picked up on all the nuances.
It should be said that Ayn Rand herself had a lot of flaws in her philosophy. She was reacting against Communism; and, for that, she must be commended. She understood freedom. She didn’t quite get, however, Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Smith understood the invisible hand in the marketplace, because he was a Christian who was a professor of moral philosophy. If people are free, the best will succeed because, like Rearden and Dagny, they will try to serve their client. The very virtues that are exemplified in God’s Word Written become manifest in a truly free market. The invisible hand is more than just the product of materialistic self-interest. It is the divine image of God exercised to its fullest degree.
That said, the United States of America have drifted so far into the malignant, cancerous growth of bureaucratic, statist, socialist control that ATLAS SHRUGGED PART I is a breath of fresh air! Perhaps, it will revive some of the voting population and help them to understand the danger of and then vote against the stale back room politics of obsequious Washington radfahrers and bureaucrats like Mouch, or Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Barney Frank, to cite a couple real examples.
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