Home / Film / Movie Review: Atlas Shrugged Part 1 – The 40-Year Wait is Over

Movie Review: Atlas Shrugged Part 1 – The 40-Year Wait is Over

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Producer John Aglialoro obtained the rights to Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged 18 years ago. Several attempts to move forward with the film failed. In April 2010, he called Harmon Kaslow and told him he had three months to start filming or the rights world revert to Ayn Rand’s literary estate. By June, the two of them had gone into production with director Paul Johansson (The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie) and a script by Brian O’Toole (Cemetery Gates).

Eighteen years is a long time to wait to produce a film. I sympathize with Mr. Aglialoro, but I’ve been waiting 40 years to watch this film. I read Atlas Shrugged while I was in high school and it changed me forever.

Atlas Shrugged Part 1 opens April 15, 2011, staring Taylor Schilling (Nurse Veronica Flanagan on Mercy) as Dagny Taggart and Grant Bowler (True Blood, Ugly Betty) as Henry Rearden. It begins in 2016, in an America literally Hank and Dagnyfalling to pieces, broken by terrorism and dominated by exploitative politicians, crooked labor unions and crony capitalists. Making the situation worse, entrepreneurs, talented executives, artists, scientists and other innovators are mysteriously disappearing.

Within this dystopian world, Dagny Taggart tries to save her father’s railroad, now run by her and her conniving sycophantic brother, who has let the rails fall into disrepair. Her struggle brings her into contact with industrialist Henry Rearden who has developed a “super steel,” Rearden Metal, just the stuff to Atlas Shrugged posterrebuild her railroad. Together they struggle against leftists thugs, collectivist bureaucrats, and dishonest intellectuals who try to steal what they produce and interfere with their plans. And all the while, people keep disappearing.

I know what you’re thinking. That doesn’t sound like some dystopian future, it sounds like Wisconsin. No, really, it’s the future.

Dagny and Henry are, however, given a clue. In this future, there is a phrase people write on walls and mutter to express exasperation and hopelessness: “Who is John Galt?”

Who would write that on a wall?  Me. Well, not anymore, but during the late 1960s and early 1970s, I scribbled it on walls and in elevators at UCLA every chance I got. (How long is the statute of limitations on graffiti? Oh, well, who is John Galt?) During that dystopian past UCLA was dominated by leftists thugs, collectivist bureaucrats, and dishonest intellectuals. No, really, that was the past. Back then, you could gather all the conservatives and libertarians on campus into a small meeting room in Kerkhoff Hall. We did. It was the birth of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

So, we’ve established the plot and that I’m an Ayn Rand fanboy. (I’ve read all her books and newsletters and they sit in the upper right corner – figuratively and literally – of my office bookcase.) Should a fanboy be writing this review? Definitely. If you can make the fanboys happy, you’ve done it right.

I saw the Atlas Shrugged – Part 1 preview at Sony Studios (formerly MGM). After the producers welcomed the audience and shared some stories, the film began and I positioned my reviewers notebook on my knee to take notes. The title “2016” appeared on the screen. I wrote that down. That was the last note I took. I was so pulled into the film that I never thought about being “critic guy” until it was over. Only half a dozen other films have ever engulfed me so totally.

From the fast-paced cable-news-like beginning of grounded airliners, failed businesses, and massive unemployment into the intensely personal stories of creators battling against the petty-souled and the mindless mob, I never took my eyes from the screen. This was a faithful adaptation of the novel. The fanboy was satisfied and the “critic guy” was blown away.

This is not an easy story for screenwriter or director. It involves such breath-taking and exciting incidents as passing laws, corporate take-overs, union negotiations, talking with lobbyists, making donations to non-profits and cocktail parties. You’re probably shaking from excitement just thinking about this, right? Well, what’s amazing is that it is exciting. OK, I left out the 240 mph train ride and the oil field blowing up, but, even without those, it glues you to your seat.
Oil field aflame






Taylor Schilling is a perfect Dagny Taggart. She embodies the strong woman, showing a liberated woman can be decisive and smart without having to look like Janet Napolitano.

Grant Bowler plays Henry Rearden unlike any captain of industry I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. He is quiet, strong, fair, creative and dedicated. He’s not at all what Michael Moore told us capitalists are like. He is a hero.

So, will you get to see this movie? Hollywood has resisted getting it made for 40 years. At one point Brad Pitt was lined up to play Henry Rearden and Angelina Jolie was to going to play Dagny Taggart and it still didn’t get the green light. There may still be some resistance to wide distribution. If you want to find out how to help insure that political correctness doesn’t squelch this film check out its support page.

One way or another, see this movie. You’ll gain new respect for yourself, freedom, capitalism and your country. And, you’ll understand why it’s opening on April 15. Not bad for 102 minutes in a dark room.

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About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.
  • Nancy

    I’ve been waiting nearly 40 years, too, and I can’t wait to see it. My only fear is that it wouldn’t be faithful enough to the book, and would be lacking.

    Personally, “Atlas Shrugged” is and has been my favorite book, and I have to admit that I judge all books by it. It is worth the read!

  • Ragnar


    I realize this might blow you away, but contrary to the assertion of your surrogate mother, Hillary Clinton, it does not “take a village” to raise a child. It takes good parents. We are not raised by a “tolerant society”, we are raised by mom and dad. Social responsibility does not extend beyond taking care of your own young, and if you decide not to, I should not have to by threat of force from some bureaucrat. Now if I decide to donate some of my work (money) to help abandoned children, I can certainly do that on my own. But I should never be forced to.

  • Boeke

    I need help understanding this quote:

    “…I shall not live my life for the sake of another human being nor ask another human being to live for mine”!

    It just sounds like a selfish rejection of the social responsibilities thrust upon us all by the favors granted us as helpless infants by a tolerant society.

  • Canderous

    Boeke, you are like a small child trying to grasp a differential equation. You have so misunderstood the quote from Atlas Shrugged that you look terribly foolish. I am trying to help you out here. Rand does not say we should not live in society and cooperate. She merely lays out a brilliant moral philosophy for just that purpose. Try reading the book you are criticizing. If you have read it, well then you might want to think about reading it again. You clearly did not grasp it. If you need any help I would be glad to assist. My name is Canderous Galt.

  • Boeke

    #7: “…I shall not live my life for the sake of another human being nor ask another human being to live for mine”!

    Sounds like a mental disease to me. The human race would never have made it this far if everyone had such a creed. Humans are vulnerable with poor fur, defenseless with weak claw and fang, and infants require a very long childhood. Were it not for cooperation and gregariousness the race would have disappeared long ago without leaving a trace of it’s existence.

    The only thing that saved humanity was the ability to cooperate and form teams, deny immediate gratification, and make binding agreements. Without society and socialization humans would have disappeared in a blink.

  • eaglejoe

    I hope every Democrat reads Atlas Shrugged, best novel I ever read and describes the present on the head. The people in the Pelosi/Reid/Obama crowd would reject it as right wing propaganda, so if you follow their screed don’t bother, as your beyond hope. I can’t imagine the movie coming any where near as good, but will go see it anyway.

  • smido

    Remember “Fountainhead” – the only film made that was word for word her work. If you’re unstable mentally you should NOT read “atlas”, however, like one comment said “It will change your life”. The quote: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I shall not live my life for the sake of another human being nor ask another human being to live for mine”! WOW!

  • Boeke

    Oh, I see, you’re a rightist zealot. Well, you might like Dos Passos “Midcentury”, then.

    Rands characters always seem to be mere cardboard cutouts, to me.

  • Thanks for the recommendations, Boeke. Actually, I have read “Native Son”, “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Grapes of Wrath”. When I read “Atlas Shrugged” I was struggling with some critical issues (as do most teenagers) and Rand’s message was “You and your reason are of value.” She saved me from the irrational, self-effacing left.

  • Frank

    Rand is not a wooden writer, you just chose not to read her other works (We the Living, Anthem). Atlas Shrugged was different as the characters embody philosophical principles.

  • Boeke

    Leo says:

    “I read Atlas Shrugged while I was in high school and it changed me forever.”

    Gosh, Rand is such a wooden writer I wonder what would happen if you read a real book, like John Dos Passos “USA”, or Richard Wrights “Native Son” or Stendahls “Red and Black” or Balzacs “Germinal” or a hundred others.

    You’d probably explode! Really.

    Try a good writer. Try Erich Marie Remarques “All Quiet On The Western Front”; hell of a good movie, too, directed by Lewis Milestone. Try “Grapes of Wrath”.

  • The film was produced on a low budget, but with everything that can be done with CGI now, you can’t judge a film by its price tag. 🙂

  • jscottu

    I am expecting a “half way decent” movie. At $10 million, it would be a miracle if it was really, really good. But I’ll give it a shot.