Part two of Ayn Rand’s groundbreaking novel comes to the screen in this thrilling and powerful drama. The global economy is on the brink of collapse. Brilliant creators, from artists to industrialists, continue to mysteriously disappear. Dagny Taggart, Vice President in Charge of Operations for Taggart Transcontinental, has discovered what may very well be the answer to a mounting energy crisis - a revolutionary motor that could seemingly power the World. But, the motor is dead... there is no one left to decipher its secret... and, someone is watching. It's a race against the clock to find the inventor before the motor of the World is stopped for good.
The USA hurtles toward crisis, infrastructure wobbles, the rich and famous disappear. You just know Atlas is about to shrug. And so the modestly budgeted three-part adaptation of Ayn Rand's massive novel slouches its way into its middle section, as Atlas Shrugged: Part II picks up where the first one left off, but reshapes its look: the cast members are all new. Thus you might need a scorecard to track the doings of the adorably named Dagny Taggart (Samantha Mathis); she's trying to save her railroad company from the clutches of government regulations, flirting with rugged individualist Hank Rearden (Jason Beghe), and wondering why the heck everybody keeps answering her questions about a mysterious energy-saving gizmo by saying, "Who is John Galt?" Say this for the film, it certainly functions as a no-holds-barred delivery system for Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophy, in which the creative elite must reject the mooching ways of the "looters" in society (oddly, there's little of Rand's committed atheism in these movies). Despite the fact that most of the actors are upgrades over Part I, the middle section feels even clumsier in laying out the cardboard characters and ham-fisted dialogue, or in shifting from talky scenes to tinny digital effects--although Rand's device of slowly teasing out the arrival of this John Galt fellow remains a darned good dramatic gimmick. Esai Morales is nicely on his game, and he gets to deliver the explanation of the title--which, like so much else here, is spelled out in laborious fashion. Although the first two films performed poorly at the box office, the Rand faithful will likely buoy DVD sales; Part III is promised. --Robert Horton