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#61 Christian

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 05:07 AM

Looks like the film did a bit more than $5,500 per screen this past weekend. Indiewire reports:

Rocky Mountain Pictures released “Atlas Shrugged, Part I” on 299 screens this weekend, receiving a fair but not overwhelming response from audiences. The tepidly reviewed film is based on Ayn Rand’s final novel, which details a dystopian United States that collapses as government asserts control. It has received significant backing by Tea Party groups, with FreedomWorks, the Tea Party-allied group headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, among the groups supporting the film. And according to weekend estimates, the result of their efforts was a respectable $1,676,917 gross, averaging $5,608 per theater (given its conservative audience, today’s Palm Sunday is expected to affect its numbers).

“We were very optimistic about how it was going to perform,” the film’s producer Harmon Kaslow told indieWIRE over the phone today. “And it’s performing to our expectations. The responses that we’re getting at the theaters gives us a enormous amount of optimism. We are looking to expand significantly in the next few weekends.”

Kaslow said he’s unsure of how wide “Shrugged” will go just yet but said “it could be as many as 1,000 screens.”


#62 SDG

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 09:12 AM

Mark Shea on Ayn Rand:

Rand, like Marx, is one of those people who is much better at landing punches on what's wrong than on building philosophies to correct what's wrong. She is the photo negative of Stalin. Worshipful of Pride, ice cold, and a hater of God and the weak. You can cannibalize bits of what she says to land a few punches on Commies. But her philosophy, taken to heart, will damn you to Hell just as much as Stalin's will.


Looks like the film did a bit more than $5,500 per screen this past weekend. Indiewire reports:

FWIW, The Conspirator performed at about the same per-screen average, but on more than twice as many screens (707), landing on 9th place for the weekend.

Edited by SDG, 18 April 2011 - 09:13 AM.


#63 Christian

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 11:24 AM

P.J. O'Rourke's review in the Wall Street Journal is entertaining:

Upright railroad-heiress heroine Dagny Taggart and upright steel-magnate hero Hank Rearden are played with a great deal of uprightness (and one brief interlude of horizontality) by Taylor Schilling and Grant Bowler. They indicate that everything they say is important by not using contractions. John Galt, the shadowy genius who’s convincing the people who carry the world on their shoulders to go out on strike, is played, as far as I can tell, by a raincoat.

The rest of the movie’s acting is borrowed from “Dallas,” although the absence of Larry Hagman’s skill at subtly underplaying villainous roles is to be regretted. Staging and action owe a debt to “Dynasty”—except, on “Dynasty,” there usually was action.

In “Atlas Shrugged–Part I” a drink is tossed, strong words are bandied, legal papers are served, more strong words are further bandied and, finally, near the end, an oil field is set on fire, although we don’t get to see this up close. There are many beautiful panoramas of the Rocky Mountains for no particular reason. And the movie’s title carries the explicit threat of a sequel.

But I will not pan “Atlas Shrugged.” I don’t have the guts. If you associate with Randians—and I do—saying anything critical about Ayn Rand is almost as scary as saying anything critical to Ayn Rand. What’s more, given how protective Randians are of Rand, I’m not sure she’s dead.


I'm still not sure what to make of the movie, but I no longer feel compelled to see it, at least not on the big screen.

Meanwhile, The Certified Copy leaves Landmark Bethesda Row theater this Friday, and I'm not going to get to that one. DVD will have to do, whatever the consequences.

Edited by Christian, 19 April 2011 - 11:25 AM.


#64 Overstreet

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 12:38 PM

David Bentley Hart has a memorable rant in First Things:

Not long after seeing the trailer for Atlas Shrugged, I came across the trailer for quite a different kind of film: Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Malick is the world’s greatest living filmmaker, and this project has been with him for years. The two minutes or so of clips that have been released are far more beautiful, moving, and profound than anything associated with the name of Ayn Rand could ever be. “There are two ways through life,” a woman’s voice announces as the trailer opens: “the way of nature and the way of grace. We have to choose which one to follow.” That is arguably the great theme of all of Malick’s finest work; and I suspect that the deeper question the film poses is whether these two ways can become one. If what little I have heard about the film is right, moreover, the answer will have something to do with a love capable of embracing all things, and of both granting and receiving forgiveness. But we shall see.

Do not go to see Atlas Shrugged. Do not encourage those people. Go instead to The Tree of Life, which—whether it should prove a triumph or a failure—will be the work of a remarkable artist who really does have something to tell us about both nature and grace (two things about which Rand knew absolutely nothing). So make the wise cinematic choice here, for the good of your own soul, but also for the sake of a rapidly foundering civilization.


Edited by Overstreet, 20 April 2011 - 12:39 PM.


#65 Christian

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 12:43 PM

I admit to reading only the excerpt in Jeffrey's post above, not the full First Things post, but I see no reason to pit Malick against ... whoever it is that brought Atlas Shrugged to the screen. All sorts of filmmakers, most of whose politics are far from Rand-ian (as I understand Rand), create bad films all the time. Why should Malick's latest be pitted against this particular film, as opposed to, say, the new Tyler Perry movie?

EDIT: OK, just read (most of) that First Things piece, which states: "Ayn Rand always provokes a rather extravagant reaction from me, and probably for purely ideological reasons. For instance, I like the Sermon on the Mount. She regarded its prescriptions as among the vilest ever uttered. I suspect that charity really is the only way to avoid wasting one’s life in a desert of sterile egoism. She regarded Christian morality as a poison that had polluted the will of Western man with its ethos of parasitism and orgiastic self-oblation. And, simply said, I cannot find much common ground with someone who believed that the principal source of human woe over the last twenty centuries has been a tragic shortage of selfishness."

So, are we supposed to reject this film because it disagrees with our worldview? How is this guy's viewpoint any different than Ted Baehr's? This is an honest question. Do we judge stories based on how well they conform to our own way of looking at the world? Do we reject stories that don't, simply because they don't?

Edited by Christian, 20 April 2011 - 12:49 PM.


#66 Overstreet

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 12:47 PM

It's almost an epilogue to his article, actually. The article is about Rand's philosophies, not a movie rivalry.

Edited by Overstreet, 20 April 2011 - 12:47 PM.


#67 Ryan H.

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 01:15 PM

So, are we supposed to reject this film because it disagrees with our worldview? How is this guy's viewpoint any different than Ted Baehr's? This is an honest question. Do we judge stories based on how well they conform to our own way of looking at the world? Do we reject stories that don't, simply because they don't?

I think this question becomes tricky, because, essentially, this is a gray area, and a question of degree. When does a work of art express a point of view so abhorrent that it overwhelms its constructive qualities to the point where it must be condemned? Are there worldviews that are so twisted they are not worth engaging? We have to struggle with those questions. The problem with Ted Baehr, essentially, is not that he makes judgments about the moral value of a work of art, but that his criteria for those judgments are misguided.

It does seem that A&F has been over this territory before.

Edited by Ryan H., 20 April 2011 - 01:29 PM.


#68 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 03:37 PM

The Rand Band
Rand’s sense of the world is fundamentally anti-bureaucratic—but the kind of inventor whose work she celebrates is, essentially, the kind who is great at launching but not so good at perpetuating. Her contempt for organization extends, of course, to the corporation: she loves and venerates privately held firms and sees corporate structure, and its diffusion of authority to officers and directors, as a sort of institutionalized parasitism. She doesn’t think about the raising of capital, she doesn’t think about diversification, she doesn’t think about the extent to which the way of business is favored by, or even related to, government policy. She doesn’t think about truly complex social systems, and, above all, she doesn’t think about psychology and mixed or hidden motives. . . .
I’m reminded of “The Social Network,” which may be the most interesting business movie of recent years, in which Mark Zuckerberg learns a crucial lesson from Sean Parker (played exhilaratingly by Justin Timberlake) about the kind of expansion—and the structural changes it implies—that will protect “the Facebook” and help Zuckerberg realize it fully. Parker didn’t suggest that Zuckerberg make a present of his company to the government or bend his vision to the demands of lobbyists or editorialists, but that he face the fact that growth implies complexity, that the realization of a great idea is as much a social achievement as an intellectual one. It’s a lesson that Rand herself has no interest in; she depicts admirable companies as dictatorships. For that matter, it’s a lesson that the history of Hollywood itself teaches.
Richard Brody, New Yorker, April 19

EXCLUSIVE: Libertas Reviews the Screenplay for the Randall Wallace-Angelina Jolie Atlas Shrugged
The producing team responsible for the Atlas Shrugged currently in theaters has hinted darkly that they’ve been objects of ‘liberal persecution’ in Hollywood, and that a ‘faithful’ rendition of Rand’s novel couldn’t possibly have been made in the Hollywood system though conventional channels.
I’m here to tell you that based on the Randall Wallace screenplay I’ve just read, nothing could be further from the truth. . . .
Jason Apuzzo, Libertas, April 20

#69 Darrel Manson

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 08:02 PM

So, are we supposed to reject this film because it disagrees with our worldview? How is this guy's viewpoint any different than Ted Baehr's? This is an honest question. Do we judge stories based on how well they conform to our own way of looking at the world? Do we reject stories that don't, simply because they don't?

I think we can always question a film's worldview - some do it better than others. Since you brought up Baehr, I thought I'd look at what Movieguide had to say about Atlas - "strong moral worldview," "traditional values." See, he and I just have different ideas of what is moral.

#70 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 09:13 PM

David Bentley Hart has a memorable rant in First Things:

David Heim @ Christian Century wonders why Hart (or, perhaps more to the point, First Things) all but ignores the political context within which this film was made.

#71 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 11:50 AM

Why should Malick's latest be pitted against this particular film, as opposed to, say, the new Tyler Perry movie?

The new Tyler Perry movie has no philosophy behind it other than a persistent, culture subservient, low view of man, anti-intellectualism. Ayn Rand's movie has a coherent and logically consistent philosophy behind it. Rand's philosophy is contradictory to the philosophy behind Malick's films.

So, are we supposed to reject this film because it disagrees with our worldview? How is this guy's viewpoint any different than Ted Baehr's? This is an honest question. Do we judge stories based on how well they conform to our own way of looking at the world? Do we reject stories that don't, simply because they don't?

Why can't we reject a film because it has the wrong worldview? Doing so doesn't mean one must reject all films that have worldviews contrary to Christianity, but then there would be reasons for appreciating them having to do with hopefully something that was still true or beautiful. Some would say that we ought to reject "Atlas Shrugged" because there is nothing true or beautiful about holding up selfishness as an idol or virtue.

Ted Baehr, instead of rejecting Atlas Shrugged (which comes from a philosophy the actually mocks the words of Christ), recommends Atlas Shrugged because he likes the political element.

ATLAS SHRUGGED PART I, the first of three movies based on the famous novel by Ayn Rand, is one of the few slightly flawed movies that MOVIEGUIDE urges every teenager and adult to see. It is entertaining and chock full of jeopardy, which is unique for a movie with such a clear perspective about political and economic issues ...

Translation: EVERYONE SEE THIS! It's a movie about those bad, bad politicians who want to destroy the free market.

... the filmmakers kept a lot of the story from Ayn Rand’s story and found a through-line. They also avoided some of the negative aspects of Ayn Rand that alienate people of strong faith and values. They emphasize cardinal virtues such as self-reliance, integrity, honesty, strength of character, liberty, and justice. And, they did not include any of her confused attacks on faith.

Translation: Since I haven't actually read the book, let's just all assume that Rand's idolization of the self, and the promotion of selfishness was really just telling us all to be self-reliant, strong and honest. Besides, since I have no classical understanding of actual thought-through and consistent conservative political philosophy, I'll just equate Rand with my politics because she doesn't like the bad government.

Because we have lost an understanding of these cardinal virtues and freedom, and have given in to the lies of the government, ATLAS SHRUGGED is extremely relevant to what’s happening in the world today. It would be nice to say all ages should watch it, but MOVIEGUIDE® must point out several cautions. The worst is the adulterous sex, although nothing is really shown. There are also several obscenities and one explicit profanity. Without these, this movie would have been good for all ages, although younger children may not have picked up on all the nuances.

Translation: This is POLITICALLY RELEVANT people! Yeah, yeah, yeah - I know I always say movies with sex scenes and cuss words are worthless even if the message of the film could be Biblical or life-changing. But this is politics we are talking about. When the message of the film is politically right, then an adulterous sex scene can be forgiven. Note: make sure to educate your children on the nuances of how to set priorities here. If the message of a film with a sex scene, is oh, I don't know, forgiveness, then they ought to never see it. But if the message of the film is the right political one, then the sex isn't really as important - not enough not to see the film and recommend it to everyone else that you know ... besides, you can't really see that much skin anyway.

That said, the United States of America have drifted so far into the malignant, cancerous growth of bureaucratic, statist, socialist control that ATLAS SHRUGGED PART I is a breath of fresh air! Perhaps, it will revive some of the voting population and help them to understand the danger of and then vote against the stale back room politics of obsequious Washington radfahrers and bureaucrats like Mouch, or Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Barney Frank, to cite a couple real examples.

Translation: Vote Republican.

So, I'd say there is quite a difference between Mr. Bentley Hart and Mr. Baehr.

Edited by Persiflage, 21 April 2011 - 12:05 PM.


#72 Christian

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 12:20 PM

So, I'd say there is quite a difference between Mr. Bentley Hart and Mr. Baehr.

Not from what I can tell from their reviews of this film. They both specialize in "what it's about" reviews. Film critics ought to go a step further and talk about how it's about what it's about.

One critic cites that rule over and over and gain, and he actually reviews the movie. He gives it one star. Why?

It’s not enough that a movie agree with you, in however an incoherent and murky fashion. It would help if it were like, you know, entertaining?

There, that wasn't so hard, was it? It's not a complicated review. It's not full of Deep Thoughts. But it addresses, maybe a bit too briefly, why the movie doesn't work as a movie.

#73 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 12:45 PM

Christian wrote:
: Not from what I can tell from their reviews of this film. They both specialize in "what it's about" reviews. Film critics ought to go a step further and talk about how it's about what it's about.

Actually, Hart doesn't get into "what it's about" *or* "how it's about what it's about", possibly because he hasn't even SEEN the film yet. His entire rant is based on the fact that he came, belatedly, to a trailer for the film that has already been around for a while.

Baehr, to his credit, seems to have actually SEEN the film.

#74 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 01:02 PM

One critic cites that rule over and over and gain, and he actually reviews the movie. He gives it one star. Why?

It’s not enough that a movie agree with you, in however an incoherent and murky fashion. It would help if it were like, you know, entertaining?

There, that wasn't so hard, was it? It's not a complicated review. It's not full of Deep Thoughts. But it addresses, maybe a bit too briefly, why the movie doesn't work as a movie.

But don't you think that your philosophy inherently shapes the quality and value of the films you make? There are some Rand fans criticizing this film because they are disappointing with the casting and overall production quality, but that is assuming anyone could have actually made a good film faithful to the book. I don't believe any film faithful to Rand's book could be a good film precisely because of Rand's philosophy. How are you going to write a compelling story and provoking dialogue based on Atlas Shrugged? I don't think it's possible.

#75 SDG

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 01:20 PM

I don't believe any film faithful to Rand's book could be a good film precisely because of Rand's philosophy. How are you going to write a compelling story and provoking dialogue based on Atlas Shrugged? I don't think it's possible.

FWIW, those may be two slightly different questions: [a.] Can a faithful film be a good film? [b.] Can a film based on Atlas Shrugged have a compelling story and provocative dialogue? IMO, a sufficiently talented filmmaker might succeed in crafting a faithful tribute to the spirit of Rand's book without sacrificing a compelling story or provocative dialogue. Even so, what one thinks of Rand's philosophy may still be relevant in judging whether a compelling and provocative expression of that philosophy is a "good film."

This is not to say that the faults of Rand's philosophy, not to mention her narrative artistry, are irrelevant to whether an adaptation will be compelling. In my view, though, they are creative challenges like any others, and a sufficiently talented filmmaker could overcome them or even turn them to his advantage.

#76 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 01:34 PM

FWIW, those may be two slightly different questions: [a.] Can a faithful film be a good film? [b.] Can a film based on Atlas Shrugged have a compelling story and provocative dialogue? IMO, a sufficiently talented filmmaker might succeed in crafting a faithful tribute to the spirit of Rand's book without sacrificing a compelling story or provocative dialogue. Even so, what one thinks of Rand's philosophy may still be relevant in judging whether a compelling and provocative expression of that philosophy is a "good film."

Unless, of course, there is actually nothing "compelling" whatsoever about either "the spirit of" Rand's book or her philosophy.

Definition: compelling: having a powerful and irresistible effect; requiring acute admiration, attention, or respect

#77 Christian

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 01:51 PM

Christian wrote:
: Not from what I can tell from their reviews of this film. They both specialize in "what it's about" reviews. Film critics ought to go a step further and talk about how it's about what it's about.

Actually, Hart doesn't get into "what it's about" *or* "how it's about what it's about", possibly because he hasn't even SEEN the film yet. His entire rant is based on the fact that he came, belatedly, to a trailer for the film that has already been around for a while.

Baehr, to his credit, seems to have actually SEEN the film.

Good point.

But don't you think that your philosophy inherently shapes the quality and value of the films you make? There are some Rand fans criticizing this film because they are disappointing with the casting and overall production quality, but that is assuming anyone could have actually made a good film faithful to the book. I don't believe any film faithful to Rand's book could be a good film precisely because of Rand's philosophy. How are you going to write a compelling story and provoking dialogue based on Atlas Shrugged? I don't think it's possible.

I'm not trying to be dismissive of what you're saying, but am pressing on this because, over the years here at A&F, we've challenged each other not to give a thumbs up or thumbs down on films that might have something disagreeable about them. Where one draws the line has always been subjective, but most of us have tired of seeing films dismissed out of hand simply because of some content issue, or worldview issue ("worldview" can be a tricky term, and in any case, I doubt we'd all agree on a definition of what is a "Christian worldview"). Especially when you've been on the receiving of this sort of criticism of an expressed opinion.

I find it a bit unsettling to see Atlas Shrugged so quickly dismissed because of its source material, its budget or even its ideas. What I've been looking for is how the movie executes those ideas, whatever one may think of them. You dismiss them upfront, so for you, the issue of the film's quality is settled. I have a lingering curiosity about the film, although I admit that my expectations have been severely lowered by what I've read. I just want to be sure I'm reading about the film, and not just the book, its author and her philosophy. I can do all those other things without ever considering what's on screen.

Edited by Christian, 21 April 2011 - 01:52 PM.


#78 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 03:46 PM

It's nice to see Beahr hoist on his own petard. Still, it would seem that he makes the standard mistake of confusing Randian thought with libertarianism. And for better or worse, there is a difference.

SDG hits on an interesting point as well. I'd say that if a sufficiently talented team realized a film based on any of Rand's novels, her acolytes would trash the thing for not quoting her right. It reminds me of some of my fundie friends criticizing Jesus of Nazareth for not being "accurate", preferring filmed recitation of scripture in some sort of Holy Land context.

#79 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 03:48 PM

I'm not trying to be dismissive of what you're saying, but am pressing on this because, over the years here at A&F, we've challenged each other not to give a thumbs up or thumbs down on films that might have something disagreeable about them. Where one draws the line has always been subjective, but most of us have tired of seeing films dismissed out of hand simply because of some content issue, or worldview issue ("worldview" can be a tricky term, and in any case, I doubt we'd all agree on a definition of what is a "Christian worldview"). Especially when you've been on the receiving of this sort of criticism of an expressed opinion.

Right. I get that. This is why this is such a good discussion to have. I'm reminded of recent discussions of films I found valuable like Inglourious Basterds and The Fighter. There are some here who will say that enjoying either of those films is wrong. And I would actually prefer being told that, than being told that it all just comes down to mere personal taste (and the mere technical skill of the filmmakers) and that the actual ideas promoted by a film don't really matter. Many of the ideas behind a film are moral ideas. These are ideas that make claims about reality and morality. To reject a film that advances particular ideas is to take a stand worth taking.

On another note, I've found the A&F community here critical of the Christian movie industry for how most of their films execute their ideas - turning up shoddy, mediocre if not downright bad films of poor production quality. I "reject" these films myself because I believe the filmmakers of these films have their theology wrong when it comes to ideas of art and beauty.

I find it a bit unsettling to see Atlas Shrugged so quickly dismissed because of its source material, its budget or even its ideas. What I've been looking for is how the movie executes those ideas, whatever one may think of them. You dismiss them upfront, so for you, the issue of the film's quality is settled. I have a lingering curiosity about the film, although I admit that my expectations have been severely lowered by what I've read. I just want to be sure I'm reading about the film, and not just the book, its author and her philosophy. I can do all those other things without ever considering what's on screen.

Don't think that anyone is just quickly dismissing Ayn Rand. The debate about Rand and Objectivism has been going on for decades. Her ideas and arguments have been promoted by guys like Alan Greenspan and Murray Rothbard (and currently supported by the likes of Glenn Beck and the Ludwig von Mises Institute). They have also been dismissed and refuted by the likes of William F. Buckley and Whittaker Chambers (and currently by writers in National Review and The New Criterion). The reason I read Atlas Shrugged in the first place was because her book was assigned to me by an economics professor (who was greatly influenced by Murray Rothbard). It is no coincidence that the marketing for this film is politically driven. Neither is it a coincidence that the film is embraced by those who support its political message. And yes, it does have a specific political message.

The philosophy behind a film is directly related to the film's quality. You seem to making a distinction between the worthiness of the film itself, separate from the worthiness of of the book and Rand's ideas. But how do you separate the two? The dialogue in the film depends upon the ideas in the book. The story of the film depends directly upon the story of the book. I don't think you're just looking for solely a film school technical analysis of the film's production quality, are you? If you're looking for me to acknowledge that a bad film can have high production quality, I'll happily admit that. But if production quality alone doesn't determine the difference between a good or bad film, then doesn't that lead one towards discussing the ideas advanced by the film?

Edited by Persiflage, 21 April 2011 - 03:51 PM.


#80 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 22 April 2011 - 02:15 AM

Roger L. Simon notes a funny irony:

But the plot of the film is worse than silly. It is politically wrong-headed. A movie about super trains in the American West in 2016? Unlike when the book was written, these days that is the very thing that Barack Obama is proposing – with government subsidies – and conservatives are currently opposing for good reason. Super trains don’t work in the Western states economically. We need better roads. But not in this movie, which seems stuck in those fifties while pretending to be 2016 (a weirdly non-technological 2016 I might add).