'Atlas Shrugged': Speechy, preachy tale of a decaying America

Posted: April 15, 2011

Atlas Shrugged. I arched eyebrow, scrunched forehead, yawned.

The first installment of the planned three-part series adapted from the 1957 epic by Ayn Rand, philosopher and romance novelist of free-market capitalism, is speechy and preachy and just a teeny-weeny bit naughty.

In acting and art direction, it resembles a lost episode of Dynasty, the Aaron Spelling prime-time soap opera so irresistible during the Reagan era.

In ideology, it is a long-winded celebration of the free market and a condemnation of big government, noticeably short on the stew of sex and self-interest that makes other Rand adaptations (We the Living, The Fountainhead) entertaining for those who do not share her political views.

It is set in 2016 in an America that's a runaway train on the track to ruin. Evil and good are as starkly black-and-white as a penguin.

The nation is in crisis, its infrastructure crumbling, the national debt skyrocketing. Homeless encampments proliferate. Gas is $37.50 a gallon, oil spills despoil the coasts, lobbyists hold Washington in their sweaty grip.

For Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling), the glamorous principal of Taggart Transcontinental rail, the question isn't "Who will save America?" but "Who is John Galt?" Is he the mystery man abducting the men who make the country work?

Before she can investigate that question, Dagny literally has to get her company back on track after several derailments.

While her brother wants to play by Washington rules, Dagny purposefully retrofits tracks with a new lightweight steel manufactured in Philadelphia by Henry Rearden (Grant Bowler) for high-speed rail. In a scene sure to win some chuckles locally, Henry walks home from his Center City factory to what looks like a suburban Tara.

Schilling, the new-model Diane Kruger, is an attractive blonde who puts some tigress in this movie's low tank. But either she's not much of an actress or rookie filmmaker Paul Johansson isn't much of a director.

With the notable exception of Jon Polito, the acting is strictly from Stepford. Admittedly, lines such as "I'm cultivating a society that honors individual achievement" and "Businesses die because people are paid by need, not ability" don't exactly roll off the tongue.

Still, to paraphrase the film, if you're weary of a government that exercises too much control over you, Atlas Shrugged, Part I preaches to the choir.


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog at http://www.philly.com/flickgrrl/.

 

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|