I happened across the trailer for Atlas Shrugged part 2 yesterday, which made me remember that I actually hadn't seen Atlas Shrugged part 1; it came out before I read the book. So I ordered the DVD of part 1 from Amazon and watched it via Amazon streaming (thank you, Amazon, for letting me immediately stream a film that I'd just bought, a fantastic idea).
It may be an unpopular perspective, but I think the film was an excellent adaptation of the book. The casting was inspired, with Taylor Schilling nailing Dagny Taggart. Grant Bowler was a more likeable Hank Rearden than the book character, but I was Just Fine with that. Even the smaller characters (Wyatt, Rearden's wife, Willers) were well portrayed and written. The visual effects were OK, though you could tell they weren't the same grade as a George Lucas masterpiece; that's what a smaller budget does for you. The dialogue was well tweaked to feel current with the 2011 political and labour scene; the world of Rearden, Mouch and the Taggarts didn't feel a million miles away from today's America.
Unlike the book, the 96 minutes of film really packed in the story; the main criticism I have is that so much was happening so quickly that if you hadn't read the book you'd be sunk; it would need maybe 2-3 viewings to appreciate it fully. Overall though it kept me on the edge of my seat, and the sudden jarring end (or "stop" as some critics had it, which was fair) was well-timed. Recommended to anyone who's read at least some of the book and is more interested in the story than the philosophy.
I'm not sure about part 2. The complete recasting is going to be rather jarring. It opens in US cinemas in October so hopefully will be available on DVD before the end of the year. We'll see how they do.