Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 (the movie)

This movie, based on Ayn Rand’s novel, was both thought provoking and enjoyable.  When it ended I thought, darn!  I have to wait one year for Part II to be released, and two years for Part III!  (If the producers keep on schedule, and I hope they do.)

I’ve read ‘Shrugged’ a couple of times and I’m a fan of Ayn Rand’s writing, so I have many biases.  The 97 minute Part I movie moved fast, but considering that the novel itself encompasses 1,000 pages divided into three major parts, it’s understandable that it had to in order to cover the territory.  I’m glad it wasn’t any longer as when all three parts are available I imagine many people will want to view them all in close proximity.

In my opinion there has rarely been a movie of any quality made that can bring to screen the full flesh and blood of a well-written novel.  I thought the producers did an excellent job of portraying the essence of Ms. Rand’s work, while taking minimal but necessary license to bring the setting into modern times (cell phones, computers, etc.).  (Work on the novel was started around 1945 and it was published in 1957.)

The basic storyline of Part I the movie is about two corporate dynamos (Dagny in railroads and Hank in steel making) attempting to run their businesses successfully in the face of economic decay and excessive government interference.  If the story sounds applicable to today’s situations, remember the book was published in 1957 and its’ applicability to today is exactly why there has been a huge resurgence in interest in the novel.  Ayn Rand noted once that she was not trying to foresee the future through the novel, but prevent it from happening.  It seems to many of us today that she was unable to prevent it.

While Dagny and Hank forge ahead through countless obstacles, other captains of industry are confronted by a shadowy stranger and the captains subsequently cease doing business and disappear.  The mysterious catch phrase used throughout the movie (as in the novel) is “Who is John Galt?”, seemingly a shrug of it’s own alluding to “who knows” or “what’s the use”.  The plot thickens.  We MUST see Parts II and III.

As a reader of the novel I thought the parts of Dagny and Hank were well cast and well acted.  The growing love interest between them has been superbly portrayed in the movie.  I thought Dagny’s adversarial brother James Taggart should have been coarser.  We’ll see if he lives up to his deterioration in the subsequent Parts.  As a friend noted, Francisco d’Anconia was not cast as expected.  I would have thought, being the perfectionist he is in the book, that he would have been more clean-cut and sharp, rather than the scruff-bearded type he is in the movie.  Hank’s shrewish wife Lillian is perfectly cast.  All these are minor, nit-picking opinions.  The movie as a whole is well done.

I thought the cinematography was excellent.  A lot of shots are in Colorado.  (The first run on the new rail line is in June or July, boldly shot in late September autumn colors!! Minor faux pas.)

I’m curious to find opinions of movie viewers who have NOT read Atlas Shrugged.  Could they follow the story?  Was it sufficiently cohesive?  Was it self-contained enough, for just the first third of the proposed trilogy?

I was intellectually and emotionally moved by the film.  I was entertained too.  I plan to see it again soon.  I recommend it.

Related articles:
Atlas Shrugged movie: Faithful, outstanding (Excellent review, IMO.)

Go See Atlas Shrugged the Movie! (website of the next Ann Coulter?)


5 thoughts on “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 (the movie)

  1. I agree with you. It was good for the hour and forty two minutes that it played. We need numbers two and three and we need people to support the films.


  2. Excellent review. I took my husband, who is not acquainted with Ayn Rand in any fashion other than hearing me rave about her philosophy for years and he definitely enjoyed the movie, but was really lacking in the overall idea behind the book. Maybe Parts I and II will clear that up for him. I tried to help him understand by giving some back story (which isn’t given in the movie). For example, Francisco and Dagny’s childhood friendship, with James Taggart always the outsider. I don’t agree that Lillian and Dagny were well cast. Lillian is supposed to be beautiful and was much more shrewish and witch-like. Dagny should not have been so outwardly beautiful. We aren’t supposed to realize it right away. She and Howard also show much more emotion than they are said to portray in the novel. It was very well done for the minimal budget and the major changes, like bringing it up to current times. That being said, I saw it in the nearest theater which was in a small town in VT and there were only 5 people there besides myself and my husband. All much older than us, probably about 55-65. I expected to see some progressive college students…but no.


    1. In my mind’s eye I always saw Dagny as somewhat serious, a slim brunette with neck-length air, white airy blouses concealing the vibrant woman she is, executive gray skirts. So much for imagination! I thought Kate Beckinsale (if you’ve ever seen her in one of her “good” acting movies such as Cold Comfort Farm, IMO) would have been appropriate. I also thought Michale O’Keefe (a good actor) was a bit of a stretch as Hugh Akston. I imagined someone taller, older, and bearded. As you note a lot of back story is missing, including the Dollar Sign ($) cigarettes. I’ve read they make a brief cameo when Hugh Akston is smoking in front of the cafe when confronted by Dagny. I’ll have to watch for that at my next viewing.


      1. Oh, and the bracelet! I thought it looked cheap and chintzy. I’ll have to review the text in the novel but I always pictured it as a simple chain-link with large links perhaps 1 1/4″ wide. (It’s soooo easy to be a critic! No qualifications necessary!)


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