Atlas Shrugged: Part One (Blu-ray)
Directed by Paul Johansson
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec Running Time: 97 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
Release Date: November 8, 2011
Review Date: November 8, 2011
In 2016 America, the economy is in the toilet and the downturn shows no signs of a turnaround. Due to the high cost of fuel (close to $40 a gallon), rail transportation has become the most economic means of travel, and Taggert Transcontinental Railway has the opportunity to lead the business if some of its terribly rundown lines can be replaced with new steel rails. Co-CEOs of Taggert, Dagny (Taylor Schilling) and James (Matthew Marsden) Taggert, have different ideas about how to replace those old lines. James already has deals in place with U.S. government-approved foundries who have been promising to supply the rails for months but have not yet delivered on their promises. Dagny takes the bull by the horns and seeks out Henry Rearden (Grant Bowler) whose Rearden Steel has developed a new steel alloy that’s stronger, lighter, and more economical than regular steel and makes a deal to replace a three hundred-mile stretch of track with the new steel only to do it, she has to leave the company and start her own line which she christens the “John Galt Line.” Due to James’ strong connections to the government, he and other big shots like Orren Boyle (Jon Polito) and Wesley Mouch (Michael Lerner) can’t afford to see Dagny succeed, but succeed she does, after which new laws begin to come forward which will prevent Dagny from making the most of her new-found success.
Rand’s epic is a scathing indictment of big government becoming too entrenched into the lives of its citizenry calling all of the economic shots without offering the opportunity for the little man to be given a fighting chance to earn an honest living. It’s a call to arms for the thinkers and industry shakers to come together to fight takeover and not allow enterprise, invention, and originality to be controlled, manipulated, and discouraged by the Washington power brokers looking out for only the interests of a meager few. Brian Patrick O'Toole and John Aglialoro’s screenplay, however, muddles the intent and saps the story of any intrinsic drama. Director Paul Johansson can’t seem to inspire much life in his leading actors whose professional and personal stories never combust into anything remotely interesting. When Dagny and Henry inevitably find themselves in bed, it’s one of the most perfunctory sex scenes seen in movies in many a year. The plot is choppy and poorly sustained, and the sudden disappearances of the country’s thinkers who abruptly disappear and claim they’re “on strike” seems ludicrous and is not satisfyingly dealt with in this section of the story to keep an audience on edge for a part two. There are some decent special effects sequences where we see the rather thrilling maiden voyage of the John Galt Line traveling over the new shiny metal rails supplied by Rearden and a climactic view of a burning oil field whose impact could have been exploited for greater drama. Overall, however, the film has a flat, lifeless tone that never gains much momentum, the opposite of what one would need if he plans to produce two additional legs of the story.
Neither Taylor Schilling nor Grant Bowler seem to capture one’s imagination in their respective leading roles though she has greater opportunities coming into contact with an array of contentious obstacles: her brother (a decent performance by Matthew Marsden), the wife of Henry Rearden (Rebecca Wisocky - dryly bitchy), and former lover Francisco D'Anconia (Jsu Garcia) whose backstory might have given the film a little more emotional pizzazz as Garcia and Schilling do exhibit some sexual chemistry. Both Jon Polito and Michael Lerner might as well be twirling mustaches in their obviously conniving evil character parts which seem drearily one dimensional.
The film’s Panavision 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color is nicely controlled and suitably rich with accurate flesh tones throughout. Contrast is nicely dialed in to assure excellent sharpness with good details seen in facial features and in clothes and other objects (a rusty old bridge seems very lifelike). Black levels aren’t the strongest, however, and there is some crush in shadow details during darker scenes. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does a mostly fine job with extending the soundstage with impressive aural design. Dialogue is usually easily discernible though a couple of the actors have the habit of mumbling making understanding them sometimes difficult if music is simultaneously playing. Elia Cmiral’s score gets excellent spread through the fronts and rears continuously during the movie. Split sound effects are also usually quite well done with panning through the soundstage frequent as the trains go to and from their destinations. Occasionally, however, the pans don’t occur even with the trains moving across the screen making the use of the effects somewhat erratic. Bass is used well throughout giving the LFE channel something to do at frequent intervals.
The audio commentary is by producer Harmon Kaslow, producer/co-writer John Aglialoro, and co-writer Brian Patrick O'Toole. Aglialoro who worked eighteen years to bring this story to the screen does most of the talking through the track though each of the men ask questions or suggest topics for discussion at regular intervals. They rely too much in describing the on-screen action when they exhaust conversation topics making it not the most exciting commentary track to listen to.
“The Road to Atlas Shrugged” features John Aglialoro once again detailing his almost twenty year journey to bring the story to the screen in this 5 ¼-minute, 1080p vignette.
“I Am John Galt” is a needless 35 ¼-minute procession of internet videos by the movie’s on-line supporters stating the movie’s watchword “I am John Galt” into their cameras. It’s in 480i.
A slideshow montage of stills from the movie is set to music from the movie’s main theme. It runs 3 ¼ minutes in 480i.
The disc contains promo trailers for the Fox World Cinema series, Another Earth, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and The Whistleblower.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Dramatically lacking and rudimentarily directed, Atlas Shrugged: Part One doesn’t instill in one much hope that the planned second and third parts will actually be made. Fans of the novel will likely be vastly disappointed by the muddled storytelling and erratic performances, but the Blu-ray does offer a sterling picture and sound transfer for those who are curious.