Review: Atlas Shrugged Part 1

I don’t intend on giving away too much of the film nor do I want to exclude too much from this writing.

‘Who moves the world ?’ 

‘Who is John Galt ?’

Budget : $20 million

Box Office : $ 4,627,375

Metascore : 28/100

IMDB rating : 5.5/10

1957 saw one the most intriguiging and spectacular novels ever written. At one point the second most influential book in America – second only to the Bible and in one poll the most influential novel of the 20th century. This year sees it’s 55th anniversary and still selling over 500,000 copies worldwide a year.

So it was only a matter of time before a film adaptation was made.

40 years of ‘development hell’ and here we are.

Release Date : April 15th, 2011

Director: Paul Johansson

Producers : John Aglialoro

Harmon Kaslow

Bruce Wayne Gillies

Running Time : 96 mins

The book clearly states over several references that it’s some time in the future – about 10 or so years. The film sets it at five. A happy medium.

Much of the film follows the book for the first part. The book itself is split into three parts and the films (sequels due in 2012/2013 respectively) will follow this format.

The pre-title sequence is one of the first, albeit it, few things that I myself wasn’t a fan of. Choosing instead of using the main characters to introduce the theme, the director choose to display news reels and have a commentator dictate what was wrong with the country. However it works in displaying ‘The Theme’ as the first chapter in the book is titled. Cutting most of the ‘slow’ (I know of many readers that will call it this though to others it’ll be one of mystery) beginning from the transfer from book to film, it goes straight to the plot of the first part of the book. Taggart Transcontinental is in trouble – trains keep derailing and the government is placing restrictions of railway lines causing them to be the sole provider of a railway line to Colorado.

Therein lies a myriad of problems for the Vice-President Dagny Taggart, played by Taylor Schilling, and Henry ‘Hank’ Rearden, played by Grant Bowler producer of ‘Rearden Metal’.

The second thing that really got to me was how short the film was – 96 mins (that includes credits) so about 90 mins of film time. 300 pages take up the first part of the book (thats about 175,000 words). Don’t get me wrong what they have put into the 90 mins works. Though I can’t help but feel how much more could’ve/should’ve been put into it. It ends exactly where the book ends it (though I shan’t give this away to either party – readers/moviegoers alike who have not touched Atlas Shrugged).

The third and final point that I didn’t like – Too much of ‘John Galt’ and what he stands for’ was portrayed. Although still hidden in shadow every time he appeared his last appearence and scripted dialogue was the one bane of my several viewings over the last week. Though I can see, perhaps, why the Director did it. To draw in more viewers for the second part for those who had only gone and seen the first movie and not read the book though that’s my theory I’m sure there are several other’s across the internet.

These three things should not turn away viewers in the slightest, in fact from being a reader myself I enjoyed it enough. It’s succint enough in displaying Ayn Rand’s first part of the novel to fresh eyes that haven’t read the book (and I hope they will after watching the film.

Now. On to the best parts.

The casting. Taylor Schilling provides the face of Dagny Taggart. At one point during pre-production it was rumoured to be Angelina Jolie however I liked Taylor. At first I wasn’t convinced she appeared too ‘vulnerable’ (for want of a better word) to be depicted as Rand’s Heroine. However office meeting after office meeting showed the Taggart that I imagined.

Grant Bowler as Henry Rearden provided the best screen adaptation from all the Characters in the book. He’s the steel tycoon that has values. Nothing more, nothing less.

The smaller characters were equally well portrayed from Dagny’s ‘rival’ sibling, James Taggart. To the Washington ‘cronies’ of Orren Boyle/Wesley Mouch/Paul Larkin. To cap the fine acting off Ellis Wyatt, Eddie Willers and Lillian Rearden (Hank’s Wife) all portrayed their characters well according to the script they had including some lines from the novel itself.

One character I perhaps need to go into just a little more detail is Francisco D’Anconia. Jsu Garcia is a near perfect face, however wasn’t given the role I expected him to play in this first part, with parts missing from the film that appear in the book. He had his moments of perfection but I cannot give a full definition of my opinion until ‘Part 2’ due to a ‘speech’ he has to perform.

There’s only two things that I have left to mention and that’s the musical score and the sets for the film.

Musically it’s a symphonic opera. Now that I have watched the film so many times I can listen to the orchestrations and give a run down of what’s happening in the film and what each character is feeling. Though a few pieces I would have heard an interpretation of due to what’s alluded to in the book and for those who hae read the book I give the question of which one’s I’m referring to ? For those who have not had the delight of reading it I’d recommend to.

Set location wise – although mostly indoor (offices/ballroom) there is enough outdoor locations (train lines/steel mills) to give the film a scope that is hard to come by in most ‘hollywood’ films made all the more potent by the subject matter of the film.

Overall I’d recommend a viewing at least once in your lifetime and to follow suit with the sequels. For the book readers, it’s extremely difficult to put what Rand has done onto screen, but Johansson now that he’s done it – I can’t see another director in hindsight doing it better. For movie  goers – although there are no ‘Big’ name actors it still has a tour de force of talent that beckons to be watched.

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