Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine is anything but a puff job and will probably rankle worshipers of Apple’s Ubermensch. Jobs’ extraordinary achievements are given their due, but the film makes it abundantly clear that he could also be a hard-hearted and self-centered S.O.B.
That Jobs had shortcomings isn’t news, but director Alex Gibney (Going Clear) places them in context. Jobs was a seeker who explored Zen Buddhism, and a brutal executive who fostered “creative tension“ in the workplace. He considered himself a revolutionary who was empowering average men and women, but his company turned a blind eye to poor working conditions at Chinese factories making Apple products.
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Neither Apple nor Jobs cooperated with this film, which uses extensive archival footage of the man, bolstered by interviews with people who knew him well, such as Bob Belleville, former head of the Macintosh engineering team, and Chrisanne Brennan, the mother of Jobs’ daughter Lisa, whose paternity he once doubted.
Despite all its compelling information, the film somehow feels long, and some of the director’s musings on the isolating nature of technology seem obvious at this point. But the material is so rich that even a less talented filmmaker would have a hard time bobbling it.
In the movie’s second half, the contradictions keep piling up — Jobs was a genuine innovator who also took credit for things he didn’t do. In his younger days he wanted to beat up on the business establishment (particularly IBM), and he eventually became the business establishment.
Perhaps that’s what puzzles Gibney most, that the ’60s-era visionary was the same man as the cutthroat tycoon.
Director: Alex Gibney.
A Magnolia Pictures release. Running time: 120 minutes. Vulgar language. In Miami-Dade only: O Cinema Miami Beach.