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By MARK TURNER
Written in 1957, Ayn Rand's novel ATLAS SHRUGGED was a sensation. To this day the book continues to sell copies around the world and the late Rand has a group of followers to this day.
So it would seem that this book would be easy to get made, right? Unfortunately, no, and the reasons why are as interesting as the book. Why would such a popular novel written so long ago take so long to be made? The producer of this film hints that it might possibly involve the politics of the film.
The rights were purchased in 1992 and it's taken since then to get the film made. The themes involved are ones of individual achievement and recognition and the idea that they should be rewarded. Here, the government claims that things are being done to protect all when instead it's more about taking from one to help another, a government where the greater good of all comes before the individual, where redistribution of wealth is the goal of the government.
The year is 2016 and the world is in turmoil. The Middle East has taken to war with themselves and in the process cut off oil supplies. Limited oil means sky high gas prices (around $37 a gallon) and the most common mode of transportation of goods is via trains. The Taggart family has the biggest train system available with brother James (Matthew Marsden) at the helm. But the business is faltering due to his mismanagement. Failing to replace old rails and update the system the company is a PR nightmare. Enter sister Dagny (Taylor Schilling).
Dagny has allied the company with Reardon Steel, a company headed by Henry Reardon (Grant Bowler). Reardon has come up with a new formula for steel that makes it lighter, more durable and cheaper. Dagny contracts his company to replace the rails in the oldest and most accident prone part of the company's rail system. Fighting her all the way is a group of old type steel owners and unions with ties to government lackeys who will do anything to prevent this from being a success.
They first try to prevent this by planting stories about how unsafe the new steel is complete with studies presented by institutions who receive their funding from the government. They then change the laws to prevent one person owning more than one company, a slow way to take apart Reardon's conglomerate. But Dagny and Reardon press on. Will their endeavor succeed?
While all of this is happening, major players in many companies are disappearing. One by one they just fall off the face of the Earth. But we viewers know something is up. Before each one disappears, a shadowy figure shows wearing a wide brim hat and asking for a moment of their time. And after they disappear the same phrase keeps appearing: Who is John Galt?
There is so much story going on here that it's no wonder the entire book has been planned as a trilogy. This being part one we're introduced to the main characters and the situations that I'm sure will play out in parts two and three. But it doesn't feel like an incomplete film until the credits roll.
Never having read the book (it was never assigned in class and I've not had the chance on my own yet) it will ignite an interest in it. This movie is well made and timely considering all that's happening in the world these days. Many catch phrases used seem to be taken from today's headlines as opposed to a book that's 54 years old.
The production values of the film are superb. Great photography and direction only enhances actors who do a wonderful job. This is pretty amazing on it's own since none of the actors involved here could be called A listers or perhaps not even B list names. But each one turns in a performance that makes you believe they ARE the character being played.
n a world where 24 hour news services play along constantly, each one seeking out their next headline story, this film just has a feeling of being important to see. Yes, it does take a one-sided view of the world, but then, again, don't all films?
Perhaps the best thing to do is simply sit back, watch and see what you gather from the film on your own without prodding. As for me I found myself anxiously anticipating the next two parts. Let's hope they both appear soon.
Past Digital Views reviews, other current reviews and more can be found online at http://dvddigitalviews.blogspot.com