Valentine: Ayn Rand's vision comes to big screen

Friday, April 1, 2011

If you feel like we're living in strange times, you're not alone. Many cannot escape the feeling that this country has turned a wrong corner into a bad neighborhood. Too many things are looking unfamiliar. America has seen its ups and downs but there was always the underlying sense that we would get back to who we were. Talk these days is of "a new world order" where America is no longer the dominant force in the world and many in this country are celebrating it.

Near double-digit unemployment is being accepted as the new norm. Liberals in Washington preach sacrifice while they ride around in limousines and dine at fancy restaurants all the while our deficit and debt are skyrocketing to record levels and they insist it's somehow our fault.

Enter Ayn Rand ('Ayn' rhymes with 'mine,' by the way). Rand's classic literary premonition is set in a dystopian society in which the "looters" and "moochers" have overrun Washington, DC. The mood is redistribution of wealth and taxing the rich into oblivion. It's not fair that one person should own more than one company so the producers are forced to give up companies they've labored years to build. They can't sell them to other producers because they already have their limit of one. Who is left to run these companies but the looters and mooch-ers?

"Atlas Shrugged" has sold over 7 million copies since its release in 1957; over 500,000 copies sold in 2009 alone. In April of 2009 it was ranked #1 on's "Fiction & Literature" category. And no wonder. The words Rand wrote almost 55 years ago are eerily coming true.

What better time for the movie version?

But how does one truly capture Rand's classic literary masterpiece? Perhaps that's why there have been so many false starts. Angelina Jolie was, at one point, tapped to play the book's central character, Dagny Taggart. Producers decided on lesser-known actress Taylor Schilling who does a brilliant job portraying Taggart. Maybe it's me but Grant Bowler's performance is exactly what I envisioned for Henry Reardon when I read the book. A more well-known actor may have overshadowed that role. As producer Harmon Kaslow pointed out to me, "The story is bigger than any actor."

Kaslow produced the movie with John Aglialoro, who owned the rights to the book and partnered with Kaslow to bring the book to life before his rights expired.

The movie is set in 2016, the only flaw I could find in the movie. A timeless movie, like the timeless book on which it's based, should not be purposely become dated. We'll worry about that in 2017. As for today, this movie nails it.

I was afraid the selfish nature of the protagonists might be overplayed. It wasn't. Not only are Schilling and Bowler perfect in their roles but their antagonists are equally up to the task. When you find yourself sitting there despising people on screen you know the actors have hit their marks. In particular, Rebecca Wisocky was stellar as the cold-shouldered, mooching wife of Hank Reardon and Michael Lerner personified the fat cat Washington bureaucrat who has perfected the fine art of legalized theft.

Breaking the movie into three parts was an ingenious decision. It allows them to tell the story without rushing it. What hits select movie theaters on April 15 is just the first part of this epic story.

The outrage is it's only scheduled to open in 12 cities. The forces of the dark side still collude to kill this story. Don't let them. Go to and demand it.

Phil Valentine is an author and syndicated radio talk show host. His website is