The United States is in dire financial straits and the federal government steps in to take economic control for the common good. Sound familiar? No, this is not a movie about the government takeover of General Motors: It’s the second installment of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged hitting the big screen.
Set five years in the future, gas prices soar past $40 per gallon, unemployment is at 24 percent, and protesters—the “99.98 percent”—demonize business owners (otherwise known as job creators) and demand fairness. The government responds with a “Fair Share Law” meant to level the playing field, but when it fails to produce the desired results, the government declares a state of emergency and moves in to take unprecedented control of everything economic, including all patent rights.
Dagny Taggart (Samantha Mathis, above) is a railroad executive trying to hold everything together and develop a limitless source of energy without using fossil fuels. She is joined by Hank Reardon (Jason Beghe), her lover and the man who created a lightweight metal that transformed the new railroad age. Rand’s novel, despite its atheistic ideology, has enraptured those looking for a full-throated defense of capitalism, but the story—rated PG-13 for mild language and milder sexuality—does not translate well to the big screen.
With an all-new cast and crew the film represents an improvement over the first installment, which tanked when released last year, but economic lectures—even if you agree with them—grow tiresome. When the plot finally gets interesting, the film ends.