Movie Review: Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike
Length: 112 min
Release Date: Oct. 11, 2012
Directed by: John Putch
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Stars: 2 out of 5
Breaking Ayn Rand's cult classic novel into a trilogy has freed the movies' production team to focus on the philosophical aspects of the novel "Atlas Shrugged" without having to worry about making a single, excessively long movie. However, this freedom led to an overemphasis on details and lack of pace in the movie "Atlas Shrugged: Part I." The production team must have listened to audiences' complaints, because there is certainly no lack of action in "Atlas Shrugged: Part II."
The movie begins with protagonist Dagny Taggart (Samantha Mathis) crashing her jet into a valley protected by stealth technology and being greeted by the elusive John Galt (D.B. Sweeney). This trick helps set the tone and pace of the movie, even as the audiences realize that they viewed the last scene of the movie right at the beginning. Director John Putch does not disappoint, and the audience leaves the theatre assured that the third instalment of the trilogy will be yet another fast-paced movie.
At the beginning of the movie, the Strike, although it's not described using that term yet, is growing. Innovators, artists, talented creators, and business titans are vanishing in large numbers, and nobody has a clue where they have gone. Dagny continues to believe in her altruistic approach to business and works hard to keep the Taggart Transcontinental railroad afloat.
Dagny ignores her ineffectual and indecisive brother, James Taggart (Patrick Fabian) and does what she feels is right for the company. She focuses her efforts on finding the inventor of the revolutionary advanced motor, which she feels will strike at the root cause of the economic crisis. She symbolically represents every entrepreneur's innate belief that independent thinking and bold action can help tackle even the biggest crisis.
Dagny finds scientist Quentin Daniels (Diedrich Bader) working as a cook in a diner and convinces him to reverse-engineer the motor to find out how it works. Meanwhile, Francisco d'Anconia (Esai Morales) begins to get frustrated with the restrictions the government is imposing on business, and converts a wedding speech into a long lecture about the popular misconception that money is the root of evil. It is evident that Francisco will be the next character close to Dagny to vanish.
Ayn Rand described her novel "Atlas Shrugged" as predominantly a love story, and the movie stays faithful to the romantic aspects of the book. Henry Rearden (Jason Beghe) and Dagny grow closer and find solace in the fact that they share ideas and values in a society where the government has become the biggest obstacle to growth and development. Their affair becomes evident to Henry's wife Lillian (Kim Rhodes), who refuses to divorce Henry, because she wants to retain her social standing. This refusal is a subtle ploy by the movie's director to illustrate how opponents of free choice are invariably motivated by personal gain of some kind.
The movie's plot picks up speed when the government's Fair Share Law makes it impossible for sellers to refuse to sell their products and services to buyers. Henry decides to sell his Rearden Steel company to Ken Danagger (Arye Gross), and the duo end up on trial, but Danagger vanishes. During the trial, in what can only be described as the highlight of the movie, Rearden defends both himself and the notion of free enterprise. Although unable to convince the judges that he's right, he gets the masses on his side and forces the law to release him with a mere slap on the wrist to prevent a mass revolt.
The government reacts by ramping up Statism and freezes free enterprise entirely. It also declares itself the de facto owner of all patents. The government threatens to release compromising pictures of Dagny and blackmails Rearden into submission. Dagny's company's John Galt Line becomes useless and is disassembled. This prompts Dagny to resign and sets the stage for the biggest railroad accident in the history of the country. Dagny, who continues to believe in altruism, returns to supervise repairs.
Then, through sheer luck, Dagny discovers the identity of the person who invented the revolutionary motor. Soon Daniels, who was assigned the task of completing the motor, decides to vanish. Desperate to stop him, Dagny flies to Utah only to find him in the process of leaving. This leads to a well-shot plane chase that culminates in a crash and John Galt's entry at the climax.
The sheer impact of the concepts underlying the script of "Atlas Shrugged: Part II" compensates for the movie's technical flaws. It is impossible tell if the other flaws some see in the movie come from problems in Ayn Rand's work, the production team's interpretation of the novel, or viewers' inability to appreciate the subtle plot and nuanced philosophy underlying the movie.