Ayn Rand's parable is meant to showcase just how much our world needs the best of us, but this adaptation only does so accidentally -- by revealing what movies would be like if none of the best of us worked on them. Key scenes feel hustled through, the plotting vague and confounding. Fake newscast footage of America's vague calamities -- pirate attacks! copper shortage! train delays! -- sounds like it's narrated by an intern.
And the world is never convincing: Why are there redwoods in John Galt's Rocky Mountain hideaway? Why does this America not seem to have highways or trucking? And where is everybody? The streets are empty, and in the absurd ending, Dagny (Laura Regan) and a squad of lovable billionaires bust into a secret compound to save Galt (Kristoffer Polaha) from torture ordered by the president of the United States -- and only face one security guard.
The movie's so slipshod and half-assed that I almost feel for Rand, whose ideas have proved enduring enough that they at least deserve a fair representation. The films reflect neither the '50s America that Rand lived in and wrote about, the Soviet Union that she fled, nor any comprehensible political now. Early on, a doctor explains that he's joined Galt's Colorado do-nothings because the feds had started telling him what treatments he should and shouldn't give. That moment was greeted with hisses by a couple Obama-haters at the screening I attended. But not even Dinesh D'Souza fans could link the current administration to the events of the final reels, when Galt winds up on the business end of a taxpayer-funded torture device. (It looks like a wire bedframe attached to a Fisher-Price Busy Box.)