Plot: What’s it about?
I’m often very intrigued by the novels of the past that are only now getting made into feature-length films. I’m very familiar with the novels of Phillip K. Dick, whose had some of his books turned into movies for some 30 years now (“Blade Runner”) and while some are hits and others misses, his vision of what was to be is interesting to say the least. Moving on we have a 1949 novel by Ayn Rand who also penned “The Fountainhead” which did get turned into a movie some time ago. Ok, it’s been over sixty years and why is this project getting green-lit just now? As it turns out the most interesting thing of “Atlas Shrugged” is the journey from script to screen. Producer John Aglialoro actually acquired the rights to the novel back in 1992 and after hitting tons of red tape, finally went the independent route to get his film made. I’ve never heard of the book and, to that point, the movie but away we go.
Set in the very near future of 2016 we see that the economy in the United States has all but collapsed. Automobiles are nearly a thing of the past as gas is nearly $40 a gallon. The people of our country have now returned to trains as the major method of transportation and the once successful empires that ran the railways are now going bankrupt. However Dagney Taggart (Taylor Schiling) is a smart cookie and between her and her brother (Matthew Marsden), they run a once successful railroad company. Dagney forms a partnership with Henry Rearden (Grant Bowler) whose company has invented a new, lighter type of steel to be used on the railways. However the government is doing everything they can to intervene. Add to this that some very successful CEO’s are literally disappearing uttering the phrase “Who is John Galt?” Confused yet? Yeah, so was I.
“Atlas Shrugged: Part One” isn’t a bad movie, per se. I think it’s just mis-directed. I was genuinely interested when watching the first ten minutes but then the film broke down into an onslaught of dialogue so incomprehensible that I had no idea what was going on. Add to that that I didn’t really even feel or care for the characters and I think I echo the popular sentiment that we won’t see “Atlas Shrugged: Part Two (or Three).” That’s not to say that there aren’t some standout performances, certainly Taylor Schiling is not only easy on the eyes but is a talented actress. I only wish that she has some better material to work with here. I’m all about dialogue and there’s no reason that an entertaining movie can’t be made that contains a plethora of it, but it was the apathy that I had for the plot that was the real deterrent. Perhaps if I’d read the novel, my thoughts would be different. But I haven’t and they’re not.
Video: How does it look?
Despite the rather low budget look and feel of the film, I was actually quite impressed with how it looked. The 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer certainly has its moments. Being a film about a dystopian future, we can expect a rather bland color palette (because, you know, it’s the future and everything’s monotone). We get plenty of interior shots of cold office buildings, long hallways and a never-ending sampling of business suits. There’s some stock footage that opens the film up that looks intentionally grainy, but on the whole it’s not a bad-looking transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is mainly used for dialogue and there’s tons of it. That’s not to say that the surrounds don’t chime in as they do, but if you’re looking for something rich and robust you’ll need to look elsewhere. There are a few moments that stood out but I just can’t get past all that talking! While this uncompressed track doesn’t sound bad, it merely serves the purpose of the film – nothing more or less.
Supplements: What are the extras?
In the supplemental department, we do get a commentary track with a few of the filmmakers and I do have to admit that it was a bit more interesting than the film itself. Granted that’s not saying a whole lot. We do get some redundant information about the movie, its journey to the screen and how they hope to have the second installment in theaters by late next year. Hmmm, don’t know about that one. Next up we find “Road to Atlas Shrugged” in which we see the history of the novel and how it’s just now being made into a feature film. While that was interesting, I still don’t quite understand the need and/or desire to bring this film to the screen to begin with. A very interesting segment is called “I am John Galt” in which the filmmakers put a call out to anyone who followed the movie on Twitter or Facebook. People were asked to send in a video clip saying, quite simply, “I am John Galt” and the submissions would in turn be put on this disc. I guess the filmmakers followed through on their end, because we have over 30 minutes of submissions from pretty much everyone. This is cool if you’re one of the people who did this but for the rest of us, the effect wears off very quickly. Lastly we get a “John Galt” slideshow. I guess if we really want to know who John Galt is, it’s easier to read the novel.