Atlas Shrugged: Part One

April 15th 2011
  • Drama,
  • PG-13,
  • 102 min,
  • Other
  • Cast: Edi Gathegi, Taylor Schilling, Paul Johansson, Matthew Marsden, Grant Bowler, Jsu Garcia, Michael O'Keefe, Patrick Fischler, Armin Shimerman, Michael Lerner, Rebecca Wisocky, Geoff Pierson, Jon Polito, Christina Pickles, Graham Beckel, Ethan Cohn, Navid Negahban, Joel McKinnon Miller, Neill Barry, Sylva Kelegian, Rob Brownstein, Matt O'Toole, Mercedes Connor, Nikki Klecha, Dave Goryl, January Welsh, Jack Milo
  • Director: Paul Johansson
  • Writers: Ayn Rand, John Aglialoro, Brian Patrick O'Toole
  • Producers: John Aglialoro, Harmon Kaslow
  • Executive Producer: Mike Marvin
  • Castings: Sharon Howard-Field, Ronnie Yeskel
  • Costume Design: Jennifer L. Soulages
  • D.O.P.: Ross Berryman
  • Editor: Jim Flynn
  • Makeup: Sabine Roller
  • Music: Elia Cmiral
  • Production Design: John Mott
  • Set Decoration: Lori Mazuer


Based upon the controversial 1957 novel by Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged follows the struggles of Dagny Taggart, a railroad heiress trying to maintain her integrity, and keep her family's railroad alive in the midst of a rapidly decaying world. She faces increasingly corrupt government agencies, the cowardly incompetence of her own brother, and the systematic loss of her best and most competent workers. As she works to overcome each obstacle, she begins to detect a pattern, and suspect a sinister force working against her. All across the country, there is a growing sense of helplessness, often summed up in a catch phrase that everyone seems to know, but no one knows the origin of - Who is John Galt?.

One by one, the best and brightest industrialists in the country are disappearing overnight, without a trace, and abandoning their businesses to be cannibalized by corrupt political interests. But many are disappearing just as she needs them most, leading her to realize that someone, some destroyer, is keeping just ahead of her, and is working against her. As she wonders what he could be telling these men - to get them to give up everything and disappear - she knows she must somehow beat him if she wants Taggart Transcontinental to survive.

She pursues the mystery cross country looking for clues to the destroyer, and also to find the inventor of a revolutionary motor she found in a trash pile of an abandoned industrial lab. As the world sinks further into decay, she knows her time for saving her railroad, and maybe staving off the collapse of the world around her, is growing short. However, the revelations she seeks will ultimately challenge her views, and force her to decide between fighting in her world, or leaving everything she's valued behind.

Basic Information

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Filming Locations: Los Angeles, USA
  • MPAA Warning: Some sexuality
  • Production Budget: $15 million
  • Production Companies: The Strike Productions
  • Production Schedule: 10 June 2010 - July 2010

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2011 Guide Analysis: "The first attempts at an adaptation of Ayn Rand's 1957 magnum opus began long before I was born. In 1972 Albert S. Ruddy wanted to film a version, Rand refused. Rand approved NBC's proposed eight-hour mini-series back in 1978 but the network scrapped it. Rand attempt to adapt her own work into a script in the early 80's, but died with only one-third of it complete. Her student was given the rights but knocked back one attempt. In 1992 he sold the rights to entrepreneur John Aglialoro who retains them to this day.

Aglialoro himself oversaw an attempted TNT mini-series in 1999 which fell through after the AOL/Time Warner merger, while in 2004 another film version fell apart - that version had the likes of Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron linked. Things changed earlier this year as Aglialoro realised the studios weren't going to get a film into production in time before the deadline on his ownership of the rights ran out. Thus in May this year came the announcement about this independently financed, first of a planned trilogy of films based on the property which would begin production on June 13th, literally two days before Aglialoro's deadline.

With a budget said to be around $10 million, only five weeks of filming and no major stars - the obvious concern is that of quality. Actor Stephen Polk was originally slated to direct but was replaced at the last minute by "One Tree Hill" actor Paul Johansson whose only directing credits so far include twelve episodes of that teen drama and the TV movie "The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie". The lead role of Dagny Taggart (a name that always conjures up the image of Dabney Coleman in my mind for some reason) ultimately went to little known but quickly rising Taylor Schilling, the female lead of NBC's short-lived hospital drama "Mercy" and the upcoming Zac Efron-led Nicholas Sparks adaptation "The Lucky One".

Aglialoro has indicated that one of the main reasons for doing this film independently is that he's keen on staying as true to the novel as he can, whereas studios wanted to make some obvious changes. Staying true in this case could be detrimental. For all its popularity and status, 'Atlas' is also a famously self-indulgent exercise in literary masturbation. Rand uses a flimsy narrative mixed with colourful prose to incorporate her passionate if misguided thesis for objectivism - essentially a form of unbridled and unrestrained capitalism where self-interest is the only real rule. Gore Vidal, a man far more wise than either you or me, famously called it "nearly perfect in its immorality" - and this is the man who penned the oft-banned "Caligula".

Getting people excited about a film that celebrates this philosophy could be hard, especially considering it asks people to sympathise and champion big business CEOs - those whose unrestrained greed caused the recent global financial crisis. The material is extraordinarily difficult on its own to adapt, for example the big climax is a speech over seventy pages long, and the man given the unenviable task is Brian Patrick O’Toole whose most notable work to date is as writer/producer on low-budget schlock like "Evilution" and "Cemetery Gates". O'Toole mentioned in a forum posting that this film adapts the first 336 pages of the book and he did his "best to stay true to the spirit of Ayn Rand's novel".

It's a noble sentiment but can't hide the fact that this is one project that probably should've stayed on the shelf a bit longer. A book of this scale and ambition deserves a film of equal size and balls, what we're getting is something that's been heavily compromised and rushed into production to meet a legal deadline. Aglialoro may yet surprise us, but what's not surprising is that with the low budget on offer, the first photos from the film are decidedly unimpressive and have a very TV movie feel to them. Whether this is seen as a bold vision or an absolute trainwreck, it'll be interesting to watch nonetheless."

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