Who is John Galt? Watch Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 and you'll hear that very question umpteen times, but you'll get no answer, yet. Perhaps we'll find out in Part 2 or Part 3.
Atlas Shrugged is the ultimate Tea Party story. Big government is bad. Corporations are run by good people who want to make profits, which in turn gets the economy moving, creating jobs, etc. You get the idea? And wouldn't you know it? Right when the movie started, this large group of red, white, and blue-wearing seniors came in and filled the theater. They were Tea Party advocates from surrounding counties that came to see the movie in one of the few theaters showing it.
The movie centers around Dagny Taggart, head of operations of Taggart Transcontinental. Due to major oil shortages and other depleted resources, trains have returned to being the prominent mode of transportation. Taggart Transcontinental is the largest train company in the US. If they fall, then the world will stop moving.
Dagny's brother, Jim, runs the whole company. He supposedly has a good heart and wants to help people and honor friend's agreements, but this leads to him making decisions to hurt the company. Dagny tries to save Taggart and make the right decisions for the company rather than for the people.
To make matters worse, the government steps in to try to stop an unfair monopoly. The result: corporate sabotage and other fireworks.
As you may guess, this movie is highly politically charged. Dagny would be a Republican - or more precisely a Tea Party member. Jim would be a Democrat. With Dagny as the main star, you can see where the bias lies. If you happen to be a Tea Party member, this could be the worst movie ever made, and you may still love it. Likewise, if you're a Democrat, you may hate this movie just on the principles it espouses.
With political leanings aside, was I entertained? On the most part, yes. I knew this was an indie film before going in, so the not-so-great acting and the low budget feel didn't phase me that much. For example, when they introduce the Taggart Transcontinental building, they show some random large buildings (I don't know which one of them we were supposed think was their building), but we never see anything to prove Taggart Transcontinental was really in there -- such as someone walking into the building. Who cares? -- low budget -- get on with the story.
I enjoyed the movie because I've already read Part 1 of the book. I enjoyed seeing some of my favorite scenes being played out. Some were well done, while others missed the mark.
Well done: Dagny buys the bracelet from Rearden's wife.
Well done: Dagny tells that one man to leave her office when he says she can't run trains on the John Galt line.
Not well done: When the reporter asks Dagny, "Who is John Galt?" and she gives her answer, it's a little confusing. The famous question is asked at the end of a media frenzy, so when Dagny gives her answer, the viewer has to think back as to which question she was answering. (Oh, I was supposed to pay attention to what the reporters were asking?)
If I had not read the book, I don't know if I would have enjoyed the movie that much. There's a lot of material to cover, and they tried to do it in less than 2 hours. Some parts are confusing and feel rushed. There are at least 20 important characters that we see for only a few minutes without any kind of introduction and minimal explanation, and then they're gone. The overall story arc isn't very satisfying - partly because a lot of conflict won't get resolved until Parts 2 and 3. The only two characters that are developed to any degree are Dagny and Rearden.
At least there were no boring parts. I think the producers could have added more time to the movie and have made it a more satisfying production.
As for convincing Democrats to see the Tea Party way, both the book and the movie would have a long way to go. All the "Democrats" in the story are weak men who resort to secret meetings. They are dishonest cowards who want to hurt successful people. On the other hand, all the "Tea Partians" are noble and trying to save the world. They are the only ones who see reason. They also tend to be women (more so in the book than in the movie).
I believe Ayn Rand's story would have been more convincing if she had built well-intentioned characters on both side of the debate.
After the movie ended, I quickly interviewed one of the Tea Party seniors. I asked what he thought of the movie, and he said he loved it. He especially loved the communism jabs. Then he started talking about trains where he used to live and how they use different metal these days, etc. I ended by asking if he's read the book. He answered, "Yes."
My verdict: not the best movie made, but it's worth watching if you've read the book or you're a Tea Party member. I think this movie and the two sequels (set to be released Tax Day 2012 and 2013) will enjoy a sizable following.