Before getting into the mini-review of the film Atlas Shrugged, which I saw Saturday night, I’ll confess a couple of things. One, I’m not really much of a Randian. I’ve read her stuff, I’ve generally liked it, but it’s a little sterile for my tastes. Second, I went to see the movie Atlas Shrugged to a great extent out of a sense of obligation. We conservatives beg for more conservative movies to be made, and here’s a movie that while its source text isn’t strictly conservative, its message is clearly that government has become too big and is an instrument used to punish success. That should resonate with all conservatives, and really with most of the country. But on the other hand, the main reason I and most people go to see movies is to be entertained, not preached to. And Atlas Shrugged just didn’t look very entertaining.
I’m happy to say that it was better than I expected. Is is great? No. But is it better than a lot of the stuff Hollywood churns out now? Yes, actually it is. Hollywood reportedly has 95 sequels in various states of rehash right now. Up against that, Atlas is very fresh.
Based on reviews I’d read, I expected a very unengaging movie, with acting nearly as wooden as the Star Wars prequels. But Atlas is engaging; the acting, while not first rate, is passable; and the story moves along. I kept wishing for crisper editing to keep the pace up. And I’m not sold on the choice to keep the story centered on steel and railroads in 2016. That makes the film feel dated in time, while the overall look and feel of the movie keeps it in the here and now. Together, that’s a little jarring. But that choice being made, the film follows through believably. The steel and trains are literally just vehicles to deliver the message anyway.
Taking it all in, Atlas Shrugged has a brain and it isn’t nihilistic in its worldview. It celebrates achievement and loathes the ninny state. Its message, while delivered with a heavier hand than I’d like, couldn’t be more timely. The audience I saw it with actually applauded at the end, a hint that people really do want to see polemical films that don’t come at us out of left field all the time. If the producers choose to make the second and third parts, I’ll see them, and not out of any sense of duty or obligation. I’ll see them because they’re worthy of a few bucks and a few hours of my time. I can’t say the same for many blockbusters I’ve seen and even loved over the years. If Atlas Shrugged is still playing in a theater near you, give it a chance. You might be pleasantly surprised, as I was.