Dagny Taggart finally finds out who John Galt is.
The fiercely independent head of Taggart Transcontinental Rail, Dagny crash-lands her small plane right in the middle of the elusive titan-whisperer's mountain hideaway (dubbed Atlantis). And the man himself welcomes her by way of carrying her from the wreckage.
He and his isolated compatriots quickly answer all the questions she's been asking through the first two movie installments (Atlas Shrugged and Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike) about why the world's leading entrepreneurs, inventors and doctors have been quietly disappearing. It turns out they've all responded in the affirmative to Mr. Galt's invitation to reject the fumbling, bumbling, crumbling, welfare-and-regulation-obsessed nation they've been a part of. And they've now sworn allegiance to Galt's hidden capitalist utopia.
Dagny has to decide if she too will join them in their complete repudiation of everything non-capitalist.
It's a tough call for the feisty industrialist, in part because she's obviously falling in love with John. But it's also difficult because Dagny isn't sure she's ready to give up on the old order entirely, to leave behind the company and family legacy she cares about so deeply. She's all for robust capitalism; she's less certain she's ready to embrace the all-or-nothing philosophy that propels John Galt's fledgling community, one in which self-interest, not self-sacrifice, is the supreme guiding principle.
She'll have to pick sides soon, though. The nefarious agents of Head of State Thompson are closing in fast.
John Galt's hardline philosophy of total self-reliance (the downsides of which I'll detail a bit later) clearly elevates personal responsibility, creativity and hard work. And though Galt overtly rejects the idea of sacrificially or heroically putting yourself at risk for another person, Dagny and his chief lieutenants do exactly that when they rescue him from government agents who are in the process of torturing him into submission.
For her part, Dagny is not quickly convinced that a full commitment to Galt's philosophy means she must also abandon her company or her employees. Indeed, she initially rejects Galt's offer to join his group, saying, "As long as I'm alive I will not desert a battle that is mine to fight."
A doctor and a homeschooling mother in Atlantis rightly assert that overly onerous government regulations can cripple the ability of medical and educational systems to work effectively and innovatively. A government scientist has serious qualms about the way his inventions are appropriated for violent, coercive ends.
As if it's a religious mantra, we repeatedly hear the oath of fealty John Galt demands of his followers: "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." Galt tells Dagny, "Your life is a sacred possession for you to make the most of."
Dagny and John have sex in a highly stylized scene that shows the couple clutching, kissing, sensually moving and partially disrobing. (We see him shirtless and her in a bra.)
The plane crash leaves Dagny listless, limping, and with a bloody nose and a bleeding head wound. We see news footage of explosions and fires crippling industrial production facilities.
Government agents capture and repeatedly torture John Galt with a spark-throwing shock machine. (We see him bare-chested, writhing in agony against his chains.) On a mission to rescue John, Dagny confronts a lone government guard, giving him a chance to join her cause—then shooting him dead when he doesn't quickly do so. It's implied that Dagny's brother, James, murdered his wife.
Crude or Profane Language
Jesus' name is abused once, God's twice. We hear close to a dozen exclamations each of "d--n" and "h---." "B--ch" is spit out once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Characters drink wine, champagne and beer. Corrupt and caricatured government officials drink and smoke cigars in their "back room."
Other Negative Elements
Those government cronies are more interested in using the country's remaining resources to move soldiers from state to state and enforcing totalitarian rules than providing food for a starving populace. Galt and his allies return the favor by showing little patience or mercy for those who don't join them. One fellow, a full-on pirate, says his sinking of cargo ships is justified because it's property the government has confiscated and isn't rightfully theirs.
To John Galt and the hyper-capitalist believers who follow him, freedom, justice and honor depend upon a radical expression of self-reliance and the total rejection of charity. The first rule of Atlantis, he tells Dagny, is "No one provides unearned sustenance for another person." In another speech, he rejects "alms, pity and forgiveness," claiming that such things undermine the establishment of honorable, just societies.
That stark philosophy—embraced and espoused by now-deceased author Ayn Rand, whose 1957 book inspired these movies—insists society functions best when everyone is responsibly engaged and not expecting anyone else to provide for them. And, certainly, such ideals, at least in the abstract, can be supported even by passages in the Bible that likewise emphasize working hard and taking responsibility for our own actions.
Where such a perspective gets twisted in a heartless and cruel direction, at least in this telling, is in the ironclad insistence that caring for someone else's needs is both foolish and counterproductive. Suddenly, then, it stands in stark contrast to repeated admonitions, both in the Old and New Testaments, to attend to the needs of the vulnerable (especially widows and orphans) and to give to those who find themselves in need. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Ephesians 4:28: "If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need." Further, Jesus taught (both by word and example) that life's deepest abundance doesn't come through grasping, but through giving, and not through commanding, but through serving.
Elements of Ayn Rand's ideology resonate with many political conservatives today. (Indeed, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Ron Paul all have cameos in this film.) And given her characters' abhorrence for government interference, regulation and even general inefficiency, it's not hard to see why. But a full-orbed philosophical (and theological) critique must go beyond economics and policy to a deeper assessment of the materialistic and self-centered worldview so wholeheartedly embraced here—a worldview that's ultimately very much at odds with the way of life Jesus commended to His disciples.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Kristoffer Polaha as John Galt; Laura Regan as Dagny Taggart; Peter Mackenzie as Head of State Thompson; Greg Germann as James Taggart; Larry Cedar as Dr. Floyd Ferris; Joaquim de Almeida as Francisco d'Anconia; Rob Morrow as Henry Rearden; Neil Dickson as Dr. Robert Stadler
James Manera ( )
Atlas Distribution Company
September 12, 2014
January 6, 2015