“Atlas Shrugged” Part One has been in the theaters for just three days now, and already the professional critics are panning it frantically – while the audiences love it. After seeing the movie, I can understand why the critics are so desperate to disparage it. The movie is better than the book, and probably will win more converts to Ayn Rand’s philosophy.
The original novel, which has been a consistent – and controversial – best-seller for more than half a century, is a thrilling, gripping horror of a badly-written book. Weighing in at nearly 1000 pages, it’s thought-provoking but slow, ponderous and talky. Rand, apparently never having heard the phrase “show, don’t tell” had no problem stopping the action of the story to insert 3-to-20 page speeches. Her characters were memorable, but not very deeply drawn. Her plot was original and intricate, but too often got bogged down in the speeches. In many ways, it was the mirror-image of Jack London’s unfairly neglected novel, “The Iron Heel”.
The movie avoids all those pitfalls, concentrating on plot and character, and replacing the long speeches with stunning visuals. For example, nobody has to describe Francisco D’Anconia as a “rich playboy” when a single shot shows him walking into a high-class restaurant wearing flashy clothes and fondling two equally flashy girls. The script is as quick and compact as the average CSI episode, and the camera-work is often brilliant. The scenes of the train rushing across the country at top speed, moving like a silver snake, are worth the price of admission by themselves. Possibly for just these reasons, the movie comes across as a film noir mystery thriller, which the book never managed to do. It also seems too short, despite its respectable 1 hour and 40 minute running time.
Because this is an independent film, produced on a budget ($10 million) which is incredibly cheap for an epic, it has a cast of mostly unknown actors who still manage to do good solid work. Likewise, a lot of stock footage – mostly of scenery and railroad construction – has been slyly and seamlessly inserted into the film. Even so, the camera-work is wonderfully Gothic in both the modern and original literary sense: using the environment itself to cast moods and convey themes. The film-crew had to cut corners to save money, but those corners are brilliantly cut. The cinematographer, director and scriptwriter deserve at least nominations for the Oscar.
Altogether, “Atlas Shrugged” Part 1 is a thrilling, gripping gem of a movie, far better than the original novel. Considering how Politically Incorrect Ayn Rand’s book was, it’s quite understandable that critics hired by the mainstream media are frantic to discourage potential viewers from watching it.
--Leslie <;)))>< )O(