What was wonderful? The portrayal of Washington was right on target. Lawmakers were proposing a bill to "make it illegal to fire employees from profitable corporations." Another piece of legislation, the "equalization of opportunity" bill, would make it illegal for anyone to own more than one company. The "coordinator of the bureau of economic planning and national resources," Wesley Mouch, intones disapprovingly, "Rich people are getting richer, poor people are getting poorer." The "state science institute" retards innovation by raising bogus safety concerns.
The portrayal of the press also resonated: "The press is against you. They say you're intractable, you're ruthless, your only goal is to make money." At one point, a flurry of newspaper headlines shows Rearden steel under "scrutiny"; another announces "stock falls."
The film also captures the entrepreneurial spirit, portraying its heroes — not all businessmen, but a select few — as hardworking and self-reliant. When someone asks Henry Rearden why he keeps scraping by all these years rather than selling to the government, he replies, "Because it's mine. Do you understand that concept? Mine." Taylor Schilling, 26, is a captivating Dagny Taggart.
All the critiques of the Ayn Rand novels — the characters are wooden, it's black and white without shades of gray, the celebration of industry (steel! trains! engines!) seems anachronistic in an age of silicon and microchips and nanotechnology — can be applied to the movie. But so what?
Producer John Aglialoro acquired the film rights to Atlas Shrugged more than 18 years ago and started filming June 13, just two days before the rights were set to expire. In a way it's a good thing he waited so long, because, with the surge of government regulation and ownership intertwined with the financial crisis, the story is more relevant than ever. To judge by what I saw last night, it was worth the wait.
This movie was Part I. Let's hope it doesn't take another 18 years — or another expansion of government — until Part 2.
The producers are hoping for a grassroots effort to make the movie a success. Their Web site has more details.