Atlas Shrugged: Part I (2011) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • It was great to be alive, once, but the world was perishing. Factories were shutting down, transportation was grinding to a halt, granaries were empty--and key people who had once kept it running were disappearing all over the country. As the lights winked out and the cities went cold, nothing was left to anyone but misery. No one knew how to stop it, no one understood why it was happening - except one woman, the operating executive of a once mighty transcontinental railroad, who suspects the answer may rest with a remarkable invention and the man who created it - a man who once said he would stop the motor of the world. Everything now depends on finding him and discovering the answer to the question on the lips of everyone as they whisper it in fear: Who *is* John Galt?

  • In the near future, financial success is considered to be politically incorrect. It is felt that people should work for the common good, not personal gain. As more corporations are forced to close because of ridiculous anti-competition laws, the rich and brilliant entrepreneurs in the country begin to vanish. Dagny Taggart, one of the last remaining "successful" people, struggles to run her railroad company in this time of industrial collapse. She faces more and more difficulty at every turn, and finally begins to search for those missing captains of industry.

  • Railroad executive Dagny Taggart and steel mogul Henry Rearden form an alliance to fight the increasingly authoritarian government of the United States.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Based upon the controversial 1957 novel by Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged follows the struggles of Dagny Taggart, a railroad heiress trying to maintain her integrity, and keep her family's railroad alive in the midst of a rapidly decaying world. She faces increasingly corrupt government agencies, the cowardly incompetence of her own brother, and the systematic loss of her best and most competent workers. As she works to overcome each obstacle, she begins to detect a pattern, and suspect a sinister force working against her. All across the country, there is a growing sense of helplessness, often summed up in a phrase that everyone seems to know, but no one knows the origin of - Who is John Galt?.

    One by one, the best and brightest industrialists in the country have been disappearing overnight without a trace, and abandoning their businesses to be cannibalized by corrupt political interests. But many are disappearing just as she needs them most, leading her to realize that someone, some destroyer, is keeping just ahead of her, and is working against her. As she wonders what he could be telling these men - to get them to give up everything and disappear - she knows she must somehow beat him if she wants Taggart Transcontinental to survive.

    She pursues the mystery cross country looking for clues to the destroyer, and also to find the inventor of a revolutionary motor she found in a trash pile of an abandoned industrial lab. As the world sinks further into decay, she knows her time for saving her railroad, and maybe staving off the collapse of the world around her, is growing short. However, the revelations she seeks will ultimately challenge her views, and force her to decide between fighting in her world, or leaving everything she's valued behind. _____

    KrystelClaire's synopsis:

    2nd September 2016: The Middle East crisis and a huge oil spil has provoked a shortage of oil all over the world. Back in the USA, it's become legal for profitable companies to fire as many employees as they want, and prices and salaries have become fixed by law. In this situation, strikes, turmoils and rebellions start soon. One of the consequences of all this is that the train system has become the only affordable transportation means. However, we can see the railroad's main problem: derailments have stopped being scarce.

    On TV, there is a politicial debate over the situation. Ellis Wyatt, a Colorado oil enterpreneur (Graham Beckel) and James "Jim" Taggart (Matthew Marsden), the young president of the Taggart Transcontinental, dismisses the derailments in his company, saying that people is more worried about speed. The representative of the government does not seem able to bring out any suggestions. James is accused of being incompetent and not being able to fill the shoes of his late father by Wyatt. Wesley Mouch (Michael Lerner), a Washington lobbyist, is also present.

    In a diner, a waitress (Olivia Presely) cares about a bump (Frank Cassavetes) who enters to protect himself about the heavy rain and cold outside, and who has no money to pay for his food. She also gives his takeaway order to a wealthy-looking man (Geoff Pierson) who leaves. There is another man who looks mysterious, in a hat and a long coat, who leaves right after the rich man. The mysterious man goes after the wealthy man, saying to him that he is used to work for himself, not letting a company take away the profits he has created; the wealthy man agrees with him, seeing himself in that definition, and then asks the poor man about his name. The images freeze and the audience can read a caption: MISSING: MICHAEL "MIDAS" MULLIGAN - BANKING CEO - VANISHED: SEPTEMBER 2, 2016.

    Title credits Atlas Shrugged

    In her luxurious apartment, Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling) is phoned and told to watch a certain TV programme. She listens to reporter Denise Greco (Jan Morris) reports another train wreckage in Granby, Colorado. Dagny walks to the underground. Meanwhile, James is said that people are cancelling tickets like crazy, because the machines of the company are really old. His assistant, Eddie Willers (Edi Gathegi) is the messanger of bad news, but James accuses him of just wanting to take on his job. Dagny has to step in. The Taggart Transcontinental with new materials and new engineering methods; for example, she does with Jimmy's idea of buying all the steel to Orren, in spite of the problems that company is causing to them. There is a lot at stake in Colorado: the company really needs things to work out there.

    Train station in Philadelphia. Dagny reads about continuing oil catastrophes in the world. Henry "Hank" Rearden (Grant Bowler) is working on a new engine for the trains. He rejects meeting many people, including the guilds; Dagny calls on him. They both admit that they need each other, in the sense that both their businesses may lose it all if the deal does not end well. She offers him 20,000 dollars per town is he is able to make the motors work in nine months. As the CEO of Rearden Steel, he understands the kind of pressures she has to deal with: an incompetent brother and corrupt politicians. He thinks that Rearden Metal will do the job very well - a new alloy twice as strong with half the weight. Dagny leaves in her car driven by a chauffer. Henry walks home. At home, his wife Lillian Rearden (Rebecca Wisocky) is having a small gathering of friends and relatives. As a birthday present, Lillian is given a beautifully crafted bracelet made of steel, which she snobbily sneers at, even after having pressed him on compromising him on his attendance to their tenth anniversary celebration in three months' time. His mother (Christina Pickles) says that only a diamond bracelet could do. Phillip Rearden, his brother (Neill Barry) asks him for some money, but his charity group, which cares for the unpriviledted, doesn't want to know that the money comes from him. Henry has got a reputation for caring only about money, which he admits. His best friend Paul Larkin (atrick Fischler) loved the bracelet as it is, and he advises Henry to mind public opinion. The press is also against him. This is also the first time that John Galt's name is mentioned. Paul wonders who he is.

    At a high end restaurant, Wesley, James, Paul and politician Orren Boyle (Jon Polito) meet. Paul doesn't want Henry to be hurt, but Orren and Wesley betray Henry without looking back. Boyle wants to pass a law limiting the number of business that a single person may have, but to make sure that the law gets approved, he asks James for money; in exchange, the investigation about the Granby accident will be scrapped. At that moment, Francisco D'Anconia (Jsu Garcia) enters, with a girl on each arm. Everybody looks at him and whispers his name. He is a rich heir turned bon-vivant playboy. Paul leaves the meeting. James looks at Francisco, surrouned by beautiful girls who want to have their photographs taken with him.

    Dagny looks for a contractor to rebuild the Colorado line. James is furious when he learns that Dagny has scrapped his plans of building a railroad onto Mexico; he leaves her office in anger. Right afterwards, a blond employee (Ethan Cohn) enters the office to present his resignation alleging personal reasons; she is distraught, because she thought of giving him a promotion and making him responsible for a whole area. He doesn't want to say for whom he's gonna work afterwards, but he says it won't be for any rival railroad company. She tries offering him a lot of money, but he refuses point blank. He decided to tell her only because he had promised her to give her notice in advance when she gave him his first job. When she presses on for a reason, he just whispers, "Who is John Galt?" The image freezes and the audience can read the following caption: MISSING: OWEN KELLOGG - TAGGART EXECUTIVE - VANISHED: OCTOBER 15, 2016.

    Dagny is worried, drinking by herself. She phones Henry, talking about the dissapearance of several efficient men. Henry was also sleepless, having a cold relationship with his wife.

    Richard McNamara (Jack Milo) is at the train station, waiting from somebody from the Taggart Transcontinental to pick him up. He is stopped by somebody who offers him to have part on a society based on individual achievement. The image freezes once again and reads MISSING: RICHARD McNAMARA - MANUFACTURING CEO - VANISHED: NOVEMBER 6, 2016.

    Jimmy proposes to take the flag of caring for the general wellness, but instead getting the competition out of Colorado. He is praised as "behaving as a politician".

    News of the Mexico government, who has just nationalized all gold mines. Francisco and the Taggart Transcontinental have lost billions. In a corporate meeting, James says that he has saved the company billions by letting only a train a day running towards Mexico. Eddie is the one who spreads the news. The person Dagny is looking for called the company and only said "Who is John Galt?"

    The CEO of company who used to work with a rival train company who has just closed down shouts at Dagny. He says he only needs affordable transportation and leaves without shaking the hand she offers.

    Dagny talks to Henry: she needs stronger engines and faster trains. He mentions a company which went bust which had the best engines. He intends to look for the remains of the company to see whether there is something which could be salvaged. He also invites her and James for his anniversary party. Dagny throws some water to Francisco at a luxurious restaurant: he knew everything about the Mexican takeover but did nothing to prevent it, saving himself but nobody else.

    Lillian is taking Henry to their anniversary party. Barb Branson (Latasha Muhammad) from the NNT talks about the new bill which Orren had approved. Henry is worried and wants to deal with the matter, but Lillian doesn't want to hear about business. Dagby compliments her on her beautiful bracelet, but Lillian desmisses it as always. Henry doesn't want to talk to Francisco, who was invited by Lillian. He is surrounded by many girls.

    James drinks on his own. Another man tells him that happiness is a delusion. Francisco talks to Henry; he wants to learn from him, and he says that the people at the party don't want to admit that they are in debt with Henry, who is the provider of them all. Dagny prises Lillian's bracelet once again. When Lillian says that she was thinking of giving it to the maid, Dagny offers to exchange it for her diamond necklace, and Lillian jumps to this opportunity, doing it remorselessly in front of Henry himself. After the party, Henry tells Lillian never to invite people she thinks they are his friends. She replies back that he has not friends at all. He also rejects any possibility of sex with her.

    Rebuilding of the Colorado railtrack is on its way. Dagny decides to let Jimmy defend the bill on his own. She leaves the limo and walks home. The streets are full of bumps.

    Rearden metal is deemed good, but Dr Potter (Armin Shimerman) is pulling the gears to make the public opinion believe that it's dangerous. Dr Potter offered to buy the formula of Rearden metal, but Henry refuses, as it is his. He says that Dr Potter would not understand.

    Wyatt and Dagny are on site, checking the works on Colorado. He offers a job to her, in case that she needs it. Henry is also there, checking on an old bridge which should be replaced. He will do it in three months, and she says that it will depend on the budget.

    Eddie tells Dagny that another key employee has quit. She tells Eddie to stand on their own. James in playing with an electric train. Dagny wants to leave the company and start another company which will end the Colorado works. Then, she will come back to Taggart Transcontinental. She will take Eddie with her, so that James will have to do "his own job" from that moment on. She tells him to behave, or she will destroy him. She says she will call the line the John Galt line.

    Dagny asks Francisco for the money, but he won't give him the money. She explains the name as her being fed-up of hearing the name. She is rejected by many investors. Finally, she gets four people. Henry himself will put the remaining funds. Henry shows her some photographs of some kind of engine: it was hidden in the bankrupt company in Winsconsin he dug around. It is a prototype which probably was never put onto production, so nobody can be sure that the thing even works properly, but Dagny feels that the engine is worth a look. Henry is interrupted, being told that the "equality of opportunities" bill has been passed, forbidden that nobody should have more than one company. Henry insists that he will sell all his other companies, but that he will never give up his metal. He reassures Dagny that that the bridge will be done on time and budget. Henry has to sell his companies to some other people, like for example Paul.

    Rearden Ore Corporation, Rearden Coal Company, Rearden Foundry Inc, Rearden Manufacturing Itl... they all go one by one. That's not the only problem: Union leader Brenden Brady (Matt O'Toole) alleges the unsafety of the rearden metal to try to forbid that any union member works on that line. Dagny will asks for volunteers, but she wants Brady to give the workers a choice. She promises that the speed will be kept steady for all the itinerary. She and Henry go on the new train. Before boarding, Dagny is asked who John Galt is. Many people look at her on the tv, worried about what she's going to say. She simply answers "We are". The train is able to cross the bridge, and they breathe out after they cross the bridge. 300 miles in less than 90 minutes, she announces confidently upon arrival.

    On the small celebration party it's mentioned by Wyatt that a new oil spring has been found, and that when everybody wants to go there to work on the site, their company will be the one who will take people there. At night, Henry and Dagny are left alone. They make love.

    At that moment, there is a knock on the door. A figure with a hat enquires about Ellis Wyatt, and he himself oepns up the door. When he finds it strange to be called upon at that hour, he asks who he is. The hatted man says that he knows his name.

    Henry proposes a getaway trip to Dagny to see the 20th Century Motor Corporation, a derelict building in Starnesville, Wisconsin. The warehouse is empty, apart from a few loose pices here or there. Dagny says that it looks as if they just left away. Henry finds a kind of hidden room: it's full of designs of engines. There is even an abandoned prototype. The designs are not signed, so they try going to the city hall and getting a list of employees, but they are incomplete in the town of Rome. A retired man leads them to one of the old employees who is working in Washington. In spite of Henry saying that he doesn't support Munch anymore, Eugene Lawson (Rob Brownstein) leads him to an engineer. He gives him a surname: Starnes. In Durance, Louisiana, his daughter Ivy Starnes (Sylva Kelegian) says that his father was an evil man, who only cared about motors and engines. She leads them to Brandon, Wyoming, where the chief engineer used to leave; he had quit the day after the engine project was presented to the company. His widow, Mrs Hanstings (June Squibb), says that it was his late husband's assistant who designed the engine. She leads them to Hugh Akston (Michael O'Keefe), the young assistant's university professor and mentor, who now has a lower station in life, being the owner of a humble diner in a dusty town. Akston doesn't want to even say the name of his protegé, and, to Dagny's surprise, he mentions that the mystery she's trying to solve is much greater than only an engine which creates electricity out of a vacuum.

    Eddie tells Dagny that there are new problems: some estates are forbidding the train with metal to pass throughout, and the use of the Rearden metal is being forbidden. Dagny tells Jimmy to fight his own battles, but we can see clapping to Wesley Munch's press conference. There, Munch also announces that steel companies will have to distribute the steel equally between companies, that companies will be forced to stay in their states and can no longer move to richer states like Colorado, and that Colorado will be imposed a special tax so that there will equalize economy in all the states.

    We can see Henry Rearden, alone, on his office, with a sad face, probably feeling desperate. Dagny drives like crazy to Ellis Wyatt's mansion. The chief fire-fighter (Derric Nugent) cannot prevent her entrance to the now empty mansion. She calls out for Ellis, but he's not there. He leaves the home and goes up a small steep nearby, from which she can see all the oil springs burning to exhaustion. She screams NO! There is a placard to her left side, which says I'M LEAVING IT AS I FOUND IT. TAKE OVER. IT'S YOURS. Dagny falls to his kness.

    We can hear the conversation in off of Ellis Wyatt to the same voice of the shadowy man which this time recognises that he be John Galt (Paul Johansson). He talks to Wyatt of the country where he comes from, called Atlas. There, individuals are judged on their merit, and the government don't crash them. Energy, intelligence, innovation and money are respected and appreciated there.

    We can see the following notice: MISSING: ELLIS WYATT - OWNER WYATT OIL - VANISHED: JULY 23, 2017. Over it, we can hear an answering machine message by Wyatt. He says that he's done, and that he's going on a strike.

    Fade to credits.

    --Synopsis written by KrystelClaire

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