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Atlas Shrugged: A cheap near-mockery of capitalism

A scene from "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1"

1 out of 4 stars


The first of a proposed trilogy of movies based on Ayn Rand's 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 comes to the screen after years of delays in time to capitalize on the Tea Party-inspired revival of interest in the right-wing author.

An escapee from post-revolutionary Russia, Rand held political beliefs have been described as upside-down Marxism: Capitalists (a.k.a. "job creators") are the heroic producers in society, while the workers (and government and unions) are its parasites.

As a tribute to the glories of free enterprise, Atlas Shrugged is pretty dispiriting. Made on the cheap with no-name stars, this is no better than a stilted anachronistic curiosity, a low-rent version of the eighties' prime-time soap Dallas, with the industrial concerns and sexual mores of 1950s, all, somehow, set in 2016.

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As a liberal-left federal government persists in ruining the economy, perky power-flirt heiress and railroad executive Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling) struggles to save her company from the predations of various leeches and envious losers.

She teams up with a couple of capitalist visionaries – steely-eyed metal magnate Hank Rearden (Grant Bowler), and a big geyser of an oil tycoon, Ellis Wyatt (Graham Beckel). Because of the movie's low budget, we're subjected to a succession of interior scenes in offices and at dinner tables, where the actors rant about the government and unions and their annoying "safety" concerns ("Why all these stupid altruistic urges?" ask an indignant Dagny).

From time to time, there's talk of a capitalist messiah named John Galt, a shadowy figure in a fedora who is persuading captains of industry to go to his secret hiding place.

To be charitable (as much as that might offend Rand's legacy), Atlas Shrugged almost gets by as unwitting satire, though it would take a director of Alexander Payne or Jason Reitman's satirical skills to do justice to its loopy premise: What would happen if all the millionaires went on strike? Would anyone actually notice?

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1

  • Directed by Paul Johannson
  • Written by John Aglialoro and Brian Patrick O’Toole
  • Starring Taylor Schilling, Grant Bowler and Graham Beckel
  • Classification: PG
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