I liked this much better than Part 1, mostly due to improved screenwriting and a new cast.
Samantha Mathis as Dagny Taggert looked more like a businesswoman and less like a fashion model. She also seemed to be more emotionally involved with the events. Definitely an improvement over Taylor Schilling in Part 1.
Jason Beghe as the new Hank Rearden was a bit more rough and gruff than the more intellectual, quizzical Grant Bowles in Part one. I preferred Bowles' characterization, but Beghe does a perfectly fine job.
Francisco is played by Esai Morales in Part two, elegant and charismatic, and he is a MUCH better choice that the overweight, unremarkable Jsu Garcia of Part 1.
Eddie Willers is now played by a big black guy (Richard T. Jones) who looks like a football lineman -- not a smart choice for a diffident, self-effacing character. All the villains seem to be well cast.
The story is framed by a flash-forward to Dagny's airplane pursuit into the Rockies, which works magnificently well and is an immediate attention-grabber. In general, I found the script moving more smoothly, with occasional notes of humor. I thought Rearden's trial was well done, but Francisco's "money speech" was a major disappointment: that speech was really the heart of the book for me, and it was brutally edited down. Should have been about five minutes longer, with more reaction shots of Hank Rearden listening to it. THIS, and not Galt's speech, is the single speech that wins hearts and minds.
As regards the storyline, my main regret is that the growing friendship between Rearden and Francisco is not as fully developed as in the book -- for me, that was the most interesting relationship in the story, much more so than the many loves of Dagny Taggert.
All that being said -- I still loved the movie, where I did not much care for Part 1. It captured the intelligence and the basic morality of Rand's work much better. I'll be buying a DVD of this one, when it comes out.
Recommended reading: The Most Dangerous Superstition, http://www.amazon.com/Most-Dangerous-Superstition-Larken-Ros...
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