It ended powerfully but all too soon. I was left sitting on the edge of my seat, literally, eagerly awaiting the start of Part II. Whether or not we’ll ever see the second act, however, remains to be seen.
Despite testimony that could have easily tainted my outlook, I settled into my seat unswayed, holding onto my high expectations. In the end, on the whole, my expectations were mostly met. I’m pleased to state with confidence that “Atlas Shrugged Part I” is well worth the time, the cost, and most of all, the lingering mental workout.
One vital prerequisite exists, however, this being to at least peripherally know the story before entering the theater. After all, at hand is one multi-faceted, detailed and philosophical story that requires constant and unwavering attention. Blink and you might miss something. Allow your mind to wander for five seconds and you might pass over a line of paramount and later significance. As this would seem true for even those who know the story inside and out, I can’t imagine how a viewer could manage to follow blindly. Let’s just say I’m personally somewhere in between these two ends.
The visual effects of the film prove strong and impressive throughout. The miles upon miles of shiny new railroad track, fictitious of course, are stunning, leading into a bridge of true grandeur (and pivotal controversy) that I only wish existed in real life. While other effects are obviously computer generated, they remain at the very least passably believable.
The casting and the acting, while already the scorn of many a review, pass in my book, though not perfectly. I’m not exactly sure how I pictured Dagny Taggart as I read the novel, but suffice to say, her big screen debut works for me, despite a weak scene or two. Ellis Wyatt was flawlessly cast, as was Lillian Rearden, wife of Hank, who himself strongly grew on me from my initial point of skepticism. The only character I pictured entirely differently than he “emerged” is James Taggart, who simply seemed all too soft and youthful. But then, considering where he ends up, perhaps this is intentional.
Like railroad track itself, the film does an effective, and surprisingly succinct, job in rolling out a route to comprehending the overall plot of “Atlas Shrugged.” The story is built on two very powerful yet opposing belief systems, each with its respective merits and shortcomings. While I’m not here now to define and argue these details, I will say that I walked out of the theater with my mind heavily leaning in one direction over the other.
The year is 2016, and doom is upon just about everyone, save one steel manufacturer and the owners of one railroad for whom the steel is produced. It’s frightening to consider this fictional doom becoming reality. When we really arrive at 2016, a short five years from now, will gasoline be $37 a gallon, the Dow close below 4000, and railroads rule the land as the only affordable means of transportation? Moreover, will the federal government’s actions to turn the country’s economy around really be the solution? The latter is the question of all questions that “Atlas Shrugged” leaves us to ponder and somehow try to answer. This may be a bigger mystery than the most famous question of the story itself, at least more controversial and perhaps even unsolvable. In the meantime, bring on Part II!
It began powerfully. It ended equally if not more so. And I’m left feeling for Dagny. Perhaps I need speak no more, except to say I love the bracelet, and to repeat: So who is he? His identity, finally, is all the clearer.