Review: “Atlas Shrugged: Part II – The Strike”

Samantha Mathis, Jason Beghe, and Esai Morales star in John Putch's "Atlas Shrugged: Part II."Greeting moviegoers less than two years after the release of the first film in the trilogy, “Atlas Shrugged: Part II – The Strike” comes equipped with a brand new director, cast, and writing team. Unfortunately, this complete creative overhaul results in little improvement over the lumbering, TV-grade original, which took Ayn Rand’s infamous 1957 literary manifesto and reduced it to a Tea Party field-trip opportunity. Both films are dramatically inert and ideologically vacuous — poor representations of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy.

“Atlas Shrugged: Part II” begins right where its predecessor left off, in the near-future. Protagonist Dagny Taggart (now played by Samantha Mathis) is still the COO of Taggart Transcontinental Railroad and seeks a genius scientist to figure out the powerful motor prototype that she and steel-man Hank Rearden (Jason Beghe) found at the end of the first film. Meanwhile, the U.S. government increasingly moves towards Communism, making plays to control both Taggart Transcontinental and Rearden Metal, as unemployment and gas prices soar. Oh, and more important people disappear after uttering the still unexplained line “Who is John Galt?”

The film’s treatment of Rand’s core messages is impossible to take seriously from the start because, like its predecessor, it is not set far enough in the future (less than a decade from now) for the scenario to be credible. Sure, it’s feasible that unemployment could triple and gas could reach $40 a gallon within 10 years, especially if a war with Iran triggered a complete meltdown of the worldwide economy (this doesn’t happen in the film, which instead asks the viewer to blindly accept its set-up). But to argue that the U.S. government could shift to a mode of totalitarianism in which every worker’s wages are frozen and all companies are overseen by the government within such a timeframe is just plain ludicrous fear-mongering. Rand’s novel was an allegory set at an unspecified time in the future, but the movie adaptations treat it as a prophecy that has been accelerated by the Obama Administration, which may not be directly referenced but is certainly alluded to (for instance, business is regulated by the “Fair Share Act”).

In fact, it’s not leftists who will object to “Atlas Shrugged: Part II”; those looking for a popular example of far-right paranoia will embrace the film as ammunition. Instead, commonsense conservatives and fans of Rand’s more substantive treatment of these ideas are the ones who should be outraged by the film’s ridiculous implications about the degree to which Obama seeks to move toward socialism. (Of course, the film never explains how the U.S. transitioned from Obama to Rand’s all-powerful “Head of State” in under a decade.) Like the outrageous third act of Dinesh D’Souza’s recent documentary “2016: Obama’s America,” which suggested that Obama seeks to deliberately tank the U.S. economy to reduce our country’s influence around the world, “Atlas Shrugged: Part II” is a sad reflection of the views of a small but vocal wing of the extremist American right. As a moderate conservative myself, it’s frightening to me that anyone might interpret the film as an accurate representation of the values of the Republican Party — which is exactly what the liberal media will deceptively try to paint it as.

“Atlas Shrugged: Part II” isn’t just an ideological failure, either; it’s one of the most amateurish $10 million productions ever released. Aside from lead Samantha Mathis, who makes for a credible if not ideal Dagny Taggart, the acting is bad across the board. Jason Beghe is especially laughable as Rearden, with a voice so low that it sounds like he’s playing a smoker surfer on “Saturday Night Live.” Further, the visual effects for the film’s numerous action sequences–a train crash, a plane crash, a dangerous incident at Rearden Metal’s production facility, and more–consistently look as though they were rendered with 1980s technology. Then again, perhaps one just should be glad that the film contains action sequences, period, to keep it from reaching the mind-numbing point of dialogue-saturation that its predecessor did.

The producers of “Atlas Shrugged” have already pledged to make the final film in the trilogy, which “Part II” seemingly encourages viewers to await solely to learn the answer to the oft-posed question “Who is John Galt?” One can only hope that they deviate from Rand’s source material and make Galt a half-man, half-unicorn who loves to randomly burst out into renditions of ‘80s hair metal songs because, well, at least that would be smarter and more entertaining than the nonsense that the series has passed off as wisdom thus far.


About Danny Baldwin

Danny Baldwin has been writing about film on the Internet for over a decade, initially for BucketReviews and now for Critic Speak. He holds a Master's degree in Critical Studies from the University of Southern California and in past years served as a member of both the Online Film Critics Society and the San Diego Film Critics Society. Danny's favorite films include “The 400 Blows,” “Imitation of Life" (1959), “My Neighbor Totoro” and “The Silence of the Lambs.” He lives in Los Angeles.
  • JG

    Is it so far fetched to think that a government could de-facto seize control over corporations and wages? Wake up–Obama did just that with GM on the corporate side and NIxon did it with wage and price controls.

    • Danny Baldwin

      Tell me how Obama bailing out one failing corporation leads to, within a 10 year period, the government passing legislation to seize control over basically every corporation? And tell me how Obama (or his successor) does so with a house that will remain Republican for the foreseeable future. This is this kind of doomsday thinking that leads to deeply unserious, paranoid political fear-mongering, unworthy of Rand. Again: allegory vs. prophecy.

  • sueaj

    Coming from a liberal writer…this commentary is meaningless.

    • Danny Baldwin

      Thanks for not reading the review at all before commenting. If you had, you would know that I am a conservative. (In fact, I have never voted for a Democrat in my life.)

  • Azaruk

    Remembering that the book was written in 1957, I suggest your argument is flawed by placing it in a modern context. Ayn Rand clearly saw these events unfolding. Why, given that Atlas Shrugged is a novel, are all the reviewers taking this so to heart. Trying to ignore the inevitable?
    Funny how critics rate it low, viewers rate it high. How strange.

  • I love the novel and most of Ayn Rand’s views on economics and ethics. I couldn’t stand how poor this movie was. That is all.

  • I love the novel and most of Ayn Rand’s views on economics and ethics. I couldn’t stand how poor the production for this movie was. That is all.