INTERN’S VIEW: ‘Atlas Shrugged Part 1’ Is Brilliant And Thought Provoking
by Philip Benais
Atlas Shrugged Part 1: Directed by Paul Johansson; Starring Taylor Schilling, Grant Bowler, Matthew Mardsen, Graham Beckel and Jsu Garcia.
I informally promised myself when I started writing for The B-Town Blog that I wouldn’t let politics and my reviewing mix, especially since I’m not exactly a conservative or liberal…at least in the modern sense of the terms. However when a film as brilliant and thought provoking as Atlas Shrugged comes along, that thin balance becomes ever smaller. If you haven’t seen Atlas Shrugged, or weren’t even aware that a series of film adaptations had been started based on Ayn Rand’s classic novel, you owe it to yourself to see this film. Despite the amateurish smear job of various Hollywood aficionados and the critics who routinely suck up to them, the two sequels are in the works and more people are becoming receptive to the ideas of individualism and liberty. It all speaks to the power of the source material and indeed the brilliant adaptation that I once thought would be impossible to film. This film is without a doubt the best I’ll see all year, if for no other reason than no film will floor me like this in a long time.
The story of Atlas Shrugged is a classic albeit somewhat long-winded tale that should be familiar to most people who are well read. The film modifies several aspects of the story to make them more tenable and relevant for a modern film. As the film starts for instance, we learn that the year is 2016. In the midst of a inflationary depression and continuing to perpetuate an imperialist foreign policy, the United States turns to political bureaucrats to save them. However, the politicians are merely shills for a corporatist scheme that is ruining the lives of every citizen. Gasoline has reached 37.50 a gallon and so trains become the only means of viable transport and travel. It is the wake of a horrific train accident that we’re introduced to Dagny Taggart and her corrupt brother James, heads of Taggart Transcontinental. Dagny is the sole voice of reason in a company that has long since given in to monopolism and political favors. To save the dying company, Dagny begins a business partnership with Hank Rearden, a thriving industrial titan bogged down by slanderous competitors and lecherous friends and family. As Hank and Dagny struggle to do what is needed, the top minds of industry begin to disappear around them. In the end, the only question that remains is, “Who is John Galt?”
It becomes apparent very quickly in the opening that certain people will be diametrically opposed to everything the film has to offer. Ayn Rand was a very polarizing individual, even amongst people who can appreciate her. The fundamental flaw in her writing was creating characters that were essentially talking heads for Objectivism, which in itself is pretty cognitively dissonant, even for a laissez-faireist like myself. The beauty of this film is that it takes the central characters of her novel and breathes life into them. No longer can you take a character from the story and say ‘he/she is too one dimensional to appreciate’. This is in part due to the actors they hired for the parts, who are talented enough to make you see them as the character they play whether you want to or not, and in part due to the writing. Much like the novel, Atlas Shrugged the film serves as a great intro to the ideas of liberty, for those who are willing to listen. In this way, the film becomes more of an experience than a straightforward motion picture. Thanks to the brilliant creative team, (the actors like Taylor Schilling, Jsu Garcia and Grant Bowler, director Paul Johansson etc.) Atlas Shrugged Part 1 becomes an instant classic, and the closest thing us libertarians have to both an accessible cinematic intro and a delight for hardened veterans. As I sat in the theater with people who didn’t really understand what was going on, I could tell that this film was going to be one of my new favorites. Like any great film, Atlas Shrugged has the power to make you fully involved in what’s happening and never want it to end. With each passing moment, I found scenes that made me run the gamut of emotions. I laughed when Dagny told the union official to stick his ultimatum where the sun doesn’t shine. I was furious with the parasites at the dinner meeting of James Taggart, the Steel Union head and Mouch, who becomes one of the most easily hated characters in recent cinematic history. Most importantly, I was enthralled the whole way through, from the riveting opening to the wonderful ending that left me craving more. Regardless of your political or philosophical inclination, I have a feeling that this film will be talked about quite extensively by a great deal of people. I estimate most will say it’s a film for cranks and selfish monsters, but those of us who know better will rejoice in the fact that a film has finally come that disregards slanders and half developed criticisms to give people something they should take note of and maybe even listen to.
In the end, if you’re looking for a film that will raise as many questions as answers, will challenge you to think critically and will be one of the most rewarding experiences you have in a cinema this year, stop reading and go support these talented individuals with your money and time. Don’t let slander get in the way of enjoying what is possibly one of the most important films of the modern era, and whatever you may think after seeing it, just be sure to make up your own mind. That is after all, the point.
Rating: ***** / *****
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Philip Benais is our newest Intern, a 16-year old student at Big Picture High School in SeaTac. He’s an aspiring Writer who loves movies, so we let him write reviews for us.
Read more of his work here.]