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Bloor Cinema Release: Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

August 21, 2015

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The Man in the Machine Poster“What were his values as a citizen,” director Alex Gibney asks in voiceover of his widely celebrated title subject in Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine.  “Was he interested in power to change the world, or the right to have power without responsibility?”

This compelling debate about the late Apple icon is at the centre of the documentary.  Through interviews with former colleagues and archival footage, the film aims to dissect the almost mythic reverence that people had for the man who helped revolutionize the electronics world, and the grief they felt in the wake of his death, and expose his dark underbelly as a business man.

Required viewing for both Apple fanatics and the uninitiated, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine opens today at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

Like in his other recent documentary, the shocking and revealing Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Alex Gibney sets his sights on exposing the carefully covered up dark side of an organization that is shrouded in secrecy and has attracted an almost cult-like following.  The film explores the history of Apple, and the David and Goliath narrative that propelled the company to stardom in the age of IBM’s dominance in the personal computing world, an underdog facade that Steve Jobs retained, long after becoming that exact type of corporate giant that he claimed to be against.

First and foremost, this is a gripping portrait of the many contradictions that made up Steve Jobs, a man who considered himself deeply philosophical, but also often lacked basic empathy, both in his personal relationships and business practises.  We are shown evidence of his inwardly pointing moral compass, which allowed him to commit transgressions ranging from driving alone in carpool lanes and parking in handicapped spots, to financial fraud benefitting only himself and overlooking the environmental impact and horrible working conditions of the Chinese manufacturers actually creating his products.

The film aims to dig deeper into all of the bad blood behind the company, including the fact that many of the original circuit boards were actually invented by his friend Steve Wozniak, with the more charismatic Steve Jobs merely acting as marketer and figurehead at the startup company, despite willfully accepting most of the financial benefits and public recognition.  It’s also fascinating to hear insights from the monk who convinced him not to join the monastery, doubtful of whether the enlightenment he claimed to reach through technology ever truly came.

The film sets out to take a man who many still consider to be visionary, and undeniably helped bring the world an important legacy of work, and suggest that he may have actually been sociopathically seeking personal gain, manipulating his supporters into seeing him as a sort of false deity.  No matter how your view of the man himself does or doesn’t change after seeing Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, the evidence that Alex Gibney presents to try and convince of us these facts is incredibly compelling.

The final moments suggest that these computers and iPhones, which were supposedly created to bring us closer together, have actually brought us farther apart.  And in purpose of full journalistic discretion, I streamed the film off my well-used MacBook Air and wrote this review on an Apple computer, so I guess these products, and the legacy of Steve Jobs, really do control our lives, whether we like it or not.

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