For many readers over the 55 years since it was published Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged has been a life altering read. It is a read of passion, bravery, honesty, struggle, betrayal, and lust. Deep and complex the novel is really a rare piece of literature. When it comes to translating something like that to the screen it is a difficult undertaking. I went into it not expecting miracles. But I really did not expect this.
It is September 2, 2016 and the United States is in an economic mess. With war going on in the Middle East the export of oil has been shut down. The railroad has become the only economical way to transport things. Taggart Transcontinental is the most successful of the railway companies. Jim (Matthew Marsden – Black Hawk Down, Resident Evil: Extinction) and his sister Dagny (Taylor Schilling – from television’s Mercy) run the company that run by their family for generations.
In order to save the company, Dagny goes against her brother’s wishes and signs a contract with Rearden Metal run by Hank Rearden. Rearden Metal has developed an experimental type of option material to steel. Rearden’s metal is used to replace railroad track on the Colorado Rio Norte line.
Jim and people who are supposed to be Hank Rearden’s (Grant Bowler – from television’s Ugly Betty) friends secretly plot against him. Jim uses political associations to advance Taggart. Hank refuses to sell the rights to his new metal to the government. Soon a smear campaign begins against Rearden Metal. Even more damaging is a new law is passed that states that a single person can only own one company. Hank has to sell off his other companies to keep Rearden Metal.
Successful men begin to disappear. Even Taggart Transcontinental is touched. Dagny is worried when one of her best employees quits suddenly. He refuses to tell her why only says the name John Galt.
Dagny comes up with a plan to save Taggart that involves her leaving the company and striking out on her own. Hank comes on as her partner. The two get the new John Galt line running on time and on budget. Next up is a road trip to locate the inventor of a 20th century engine. While on the road tragedy strikes.
Ayn Rand’s novel is given a modern twist in look and feel. Though this is only 1/3 of the story, the film covers a lot of ground. And maybe they were overly ambitious undertaking all this. The concepts of Objectivism and the idea that society is stifling to creativity are dense ones and hard to translate well. Maybe that is why Ayn Rand never allowed her novel to be turned into a film while she was alive. She foresaw the problems.
The hands of the people in this film are tied as they were working with a low budget and trying to do the source material justice. As a result the dialogue is weak, acting is not great, the editing will make you scratch your head, and it is in a word – mindnumbing. Basically it is of the same calibre of many poorly constructed made for television films. Nothing about it is compelling. Maybe in its ill conceived attempt at being philosophical it really drags. There is nothing particularly interesting in the story. All the life, fury and passion have been wrung from it. Whereas the novel is dramatic and tense the film version is lifeless.
-Road to Atlas Shrugged
-“I Am John Galt”
-The John Galt Theme” Slideshow