I was surprised, and delighted, to find that “Atlas Shrugged, Part III: Who Is John Galt?” was an immensely enjoyable film.
For me, that is, and any other Ayn Rand-head, a term I’ve coined to represent anyone taken with the life and works of author-philosopher Ayn Rand, a controversial person if there ever was one.
But for viewers who have not read her magnum opus, “Atlas Shrugged,” the film is a yawner that you would be well-advised to skip. Pity, because the film has a message worth being heard. But that message is complicated. In this horribly polarized world we’re living in, it’s hard to reconcile the liberal-conservative dichotomy. If solutions were easy, we wouldn’t be dichotomized in the first place. So there’s no point in arguing economics or politics in this blog entry. The purpose here is simply to report that the critics, who are unanimously panning AS, Part III, are, due to their bias, completely wrong. The film is well-written, well-acted, well-photographed, well-scored. Not at all like the critics say.
But as we all know, haters gonna hate. Ayn Rand was a hater, too. Of Karl Marx. And of communism. And of the slogan, “From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his needs.” And, although I call myself a liberal these days, that doesn’t mean I’m in favor of over-regulation and governmental red tape and all the other things that conservatives hate.
On the other hand, I found myself grinning and agreeing and being charmed and amused to see Rand’s heroes and villains being brought to life on the silver screen. Laura Regan was just as perfect a Dagny Taggart as Taylor Schlling was in Part I, and Kristoffer Polaha was an equally perfect depiction of John Galt. All of Rand’s characters are larger than life, romanticized and one-dimensional, and that makes her easy to criticize. But that’s what Rand was, a romanticist. As passionate a one as has ever lived.
And I was also pleased with the performances of the villains — particularly Peter Mackenzie as Mr. Thompson and Tony Denison as Cuffy Meigs.
Now for the flaws. Yes there were some, which the Rand-haters were eager to jump on. There was the silliness of the antepenultimate torture scenes that forced the viewer to think of John Galt as a modern-day Jesus Christ being crucified. And the whole ending was kind of weak, reflecting the puniness of the small budget the film makers had to work with in the first place. And it was somewhat annoying to see an obligatory reference to the Cherryl Taggart character. I’m speaking of the poor shopgirl who married villainous James Taggart (played ably by Greg Germann of “Ally McBeal” fame). Cherryl had been rescued from poverty by the pompous brother of Dagny, and was deluded enough to think first that James was the good guy and Dagny was the bad one, but then she realized the truth and that whole subplot and subcharacter proved to be one of the most touching parts of the original novel. So apparently it was decided to satisfy us Rand-heads by throwing her story into the movie, but they spent a whole 30 seconds on it, succeeding only in confusing whatever non-Rand-heads might be in the audience. Pointless.
But it’s also pointless to harp on the flaws, because if you’re a Rand-head, you’ll love the film. If you’re either neutral or a Rand-hater, you’ll be either confused or bored or both.