Grae's currently on vacation in an exotic land until the end of April. Subbing for her is fellow MDC writer Alonso Duralde. Follow him on Twitter at @ADuralde.
Who's In It: Taylor Schilling, Grant Bowler, Graham Beckel, Jsu Garcia, Matthew Marsden, Michael Lerner, Jon Polito
The Basics: In this long-awaited adaptation of the novel by Ayn Rand, railroad magnate Dagny Taggart (Schilling) and steel tycoon Henry Rearden (Bowler) do their best to repair America's railroad infrastructure and to maintain the nation's commerce despite constant interference from the government and the disappearance of many of the business world's best and brightest. The catch-phrase of the moment is "Who is John Galt?" -- a way to shrug off unanswerable questions -- so Taggart names her new railroad The John Galt Line. Many predict the line will fail, since she's using Rearden's untested new super-metal, but they forge on ahead anyway. Will their efforts be in vain? (Don't expect answers yet -- this is the first of a proposed trilogy.)
What's the Deal: Putting aside Rand's controversial political philosophies for a moment -- because agreeing with Robert Redford's opinions about habeas corpus didn't make The Conspirator any easier to watch -- Atlas Shrugged is a talky bore. Scene after scene unfolds in restaurants or boardrooms or limousines, and while a talented filmmaker could certainly make all this chatter about railroads (see below) and back-room back-stabbing feel vivid and interesting, TV director Paul Johansson (who also plays a significant, cloaked figure in the film) doesn't know how to make this material ping. It doesn't help that there's a whole lot of declaiming here, with people talking at, and not to, each other, about their political viewpoints, with none of the characters changing at all from beginning to end.
Why Dagny Taggart is Like the Invisible Girl: You've probably never seen it unless you bought a bootleg at Comic-Con, but Roger Corman once churned out an awful, mega-low-budget big-screen version of The Fantastic Four that was produced quickly and cheaply only because Corman's rights to the material were about to expire. That's what happened with Atlas Shrugged as well -- producer John Aglialoro apparently spent 17 years trying to get this film made, and he finally rushed into shooting with two days left before he'd lose his rights to the book. The result is a film that has the flat, airless look of a Tori Spelling made-for-cable movie filmed in Vancouver.
Clang Clang Clang: In the 1950s, it made sense to tell a story in which railroads were the crux of America's infrastructure, but for a movie set in 2016, it just doesn't ring true, despite one sentence of narration early on about the collapse of the airlines. And for a society that's supposedly falling apart, this is the most scrubbed-up dystopia you'll ever see. At one point, Dagny gets out of a limo in a huff and walks through the streets that are supposedly filled with the unemployed and desperate, but there's never any impression that this well-dressed woman walking alone at night is in even the slightest bit of danger.
Why None of This Matters If You're a Rand Fan: In the same way that evangelical Christians turned out en masse for clunkers like Left Behind (which actually borrows heavily from Atlas Shrugged's plot) and The Omega Code, followers of Ayn Rand and her philosophies will ignore this movie's flaws and revel in the very act of getting to see this story played out on the big screen. (That's my impression from seeing it at a sold-out show on opening weekend, anyway.) So if you're a card-carrying Objectivist, by all means, go see it and have a ball. If you're not, however, tread carefully.