Atlas Shrugged: Part 1
Fox // PG-13 // $22.98 // November 8, 2011
Review by Nick Hartel | posted December 4, 2011
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Those hoping for a politically charged analysis of the long-awaited (by some) feature film debut of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" can check out now, for politics are the least relevant issue surrounding this film. "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1" was said by some to be rushed to production as the "expiration" on the film rights were running out and it was do or die time for producer John Aglialoro. Sporting a $20,000,000 budget, the film attempts to distil a third of Ayn Rand's epic length novel into a tidy 102-minute segment that inevitably ends with a cliffhanger, which in light of the film's pathetic box office, may mean the film remains an unsatisfying (on one of many levels) experience.

"Atlas Shrugged" isn't an objectively awful film, but on the same hand has a long ways to go before anyone would mistake it for a good one. Directed by first timer Paul Johansson, the film sports a striking, timeless look that stands in for the year 2016. The modern day political influences are painted all over the film, with references to $40 a gallon gas reigniting the previously dead railroad industry as the means of transportation. Enter Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling), vice-president of Taggart Transcontinental the nation's leading line. Initially at odds with her brother James, who outranks her publicly but lacks the spine to truly go toe-to-toe privately, Dagny sets out to push the Taggart family business to new heights of innovation and profit by utilizing the new Rearden Metal, brainchild of Hank Rearden (Grant Bowler), wealthy genius and owner of numerous profitable companies. Thus begins the only real source of plot development in "Atlas Shrugged," one company wants to be profitable, so it enlists the help of another company who wants to be profitable and together they find a way to fulfill their own self-serving interests while fighting the real enemy: Big Government who wants to stifle profits and push a haphazardly veiled form of socialism on "evil" corporations.

The film's script is truly a one-dimensional affair and the extremes of Rand's theory of Objectivism play out as na´ve and insane. Leads Schilling and Bowler are given little to work with and both struggle with the clunky dialogue and anemic storyline, injecting hints of humanity to their character that go against what the characters are supposed to stand for in the first place. Not fairing so well is the supporting cast of mostly "villains" who are a motley crew of near mustache twirling political fat cats and equally na´ve do-gooders who seek to fix a broken country that the viewer is kept isolated from in the film world, apart from passing references of stagy news reports playing on background televisions. The dialogue is riddled with showy dialogue that boils down to characters taking five minutes to completely make a 45-second point nearly incomprehensible.

With the movie approaching it's close, the novel's most famous element "Who is John Galt?" is quickly thrown to the forefront, pulling Dagny and Hank on a by-the-numbers "treasure hunt" that would be the film's most engaging element if viewers didn't already know the payoff won't come until the next film. At the end of the day, "Atlas Shrugged" is thoroughly disposable and the parties on both sides of the fence arguing about it's themes and messages look like buffoons, because the film accomplishes little more than offering a mildly interesting corporate drama with a third act "whodunit" twist. The only positive to come is a cast that does their best to work with a second-rate script whittled from a bloated, clumsy novel, showing that in the right hands with a bigger budget they'd be capable of some actually engaging work. Personally, I wouldn't consider wasting my time, until the second installment is headed for theaters or DVD, as the lack of a conclusion takes what little wind out of the picture's sails.


The Video

As Fox provided a DVD-R screener with watermarks, I am unable to give a proper analysis and critique of the DVD's visual quality. Should Fox provide a final retail product this section will be updated to reflect such matters.

The Audio

As Fox provided a DVD-R screener with watermarks, I am unable to give a proper analysis and critique of the DVD's audio quality. Should Fox provide a final retail product this section will be updated to reflect such matters.

The Extras

A feature length commentary from the film's producer and screenwriters offers nothing truly meaningful and acts almost as promotion for the film you've already watched. "Road to Atlas Shrugged" is your standard five minute promotional interview posing as a behind-the-scenes look. "I Am John Galt" is 30-plus minutes of fans speaking the phrase "I Am John Galt" into a camera. To stray slightly political, think of it as the right's equivalent of angry crowds droning "We Are The 99%." Lastly, a photo gallery rounds out the bonus features section.

Final Thoughts

Mediocre may be too kind for "Atlas Shrugged," as the previously referred to non-ending really eliminates any reason the average viewer should invest time or money into checking it out. It's a competently designed, but flat looking film that coasts by on performances that lose steam as the script devolves further into pseudo-intellectual political commentary. Rent It.

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