Atlas Shrugged Part I: Eerily Familiar

Posted on Fri 03/25/2011 by


By Amy Payne

No American is allowed to own more than one business. All employers must pay wages dictated by the government and must provide jobs for those who need them. Unfair competition is outlawed, ensuring that every person who wants to be in business can have an equal share of the work available. The Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources can announce new taxes on more profitable businesses and states at any time to “even out” opportunities for poorer states and less successful companies.

This is the economic scene that unfolds in the new movie Atlas Shrugged: Part I—and if it sounds like the dream of many on the left in Washington today, that’s no coincidence.

“Ayn Rand always said the novel takes place the day after tomorrow,” producer John Aglialoro told The Daily Caller.

The 1957 bestseller serves as a continued warning to those who understand its principles and aim to safeguard individual liberty and prosperity. Rand’s villains truly believe that they are pursuing the greater good and that the masses will benefit from punishing society’s top producers. Several lines in the film sound like they were ripped from the headlines. As a bureaucrat tells steel magnate Henry Rearden in the movie trailer, “We can’t afford to allow the expansion of a company which produces too much.”

At a Heritage Foundation screening for bloggers and media yesterday, the audience chuckled at the Washington antics in the film, including pieces of legislation with names like the “Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog” bill and the “Equalization of Opportunity” bill. These timeless legislative titles are straight from the book, and as The Wall Street Journal’s Steve Moore wrote in 2009, it often feels like the current Administration’s policies could be taken directly from Rand’s classic.

Some in the audience had not read the book, while others said they had been waiting decades to see a movie version. The book has so many ardent fans that the producers acknowledged it was an intimidating feat to make a movie. Many, including this writer, didn’t know if they would even want to see a movie version. However, online reviews from early screenings indicate that diehard fans are pleased. David Kelley, executive director of the Atlas Society, praised the adaptation and said it “can’t be ignored.”

The film covers Part I of the three-part novel, condensed into just 102 minutes. (Parts II and III are to follow in sequels, the producers say.) The scenes that are included give a good sense of the book’s beginning, though it is too short to allow much development of the characters and their relationships. The foundational plot mystery of successful businesspeople going missing one after another is cleverly established, and the strong performance of Grant Bowler as Rearden supplies backbone.

Fans of the book will find some enjoyable, if brief, nods to rich portions of the book that were left out, including the back story of main characters Dagny Taggart and Francisco d’Anconia. Keep an eye out for that famous cigarette with the dollar sign on it.

The film is an independent venture, so it doesn’t have the distribution backing of a major studio. Producers Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow urged people to see the film on opening weekend (April 15) so that theaters will continue to carry it and expand it to other venues. For more information about the movie, including a plot synopsis and cities where it is slated to open, visit the official Web site.

Amy Payne is a Web Editor and writer at The Heritage Foundation

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