It's been more than 35 years since I read Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged while in college. On April 15, a movie based on the first third of the book was released to a limited screening with very little advertisement. The critics have largely panned it; the public that has viewed it praise it by an 85 percent "must see" rating on Fandango.
This follows the history of the novel itself and Rand's earlier novel The Fountainhead, neither of which received good reviews but succeeded largely by word-of-mouth endorsements from readers.
I didn't expect much of this low-budget ($10 million), hastily produced (six weeks) effort with no-name stars, but how wrong I was. It is an extraordinary work -- unlike any movie I have seen. It is an unabashed celebration of capitalism and the spirit of the individual.
Far from the monotonous diatribe that the critics saw, I viewed a fast-paced, intellectually stimulating work with excellent professional casting. Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart is superb. Compressing Rand's tome to a manageable movie script while capturing the essence of her work has been magnificently accomplished.
Will it play at the box office? Week one produced per-theater revenues of $5,608, second only to Rio and ahead of Robert Redford's much promoted The Conspirator at $5,500. Will success continue? I hope so. It has my two thumbs up, and I can't wait for Part Two!
Lee E. Wheatley