Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

Since the death of Apple’s Steve Jobs in 2011, we’ve had two biopic films about the man. Firstly, we had Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher which, from what I’ve been told, was utter wank. I didn’t go anywhere near it. Secondly and more recently, we’ve had Steve Jobs, starring Michael Fassbender. Critical reception of the latter has been a lot warmer with awards hype building for next year’s Oscars – despite a disappointing box office reception, at least in the US. But there’s only so much a biopic can show or tell you about someone with a life as vast and interesting as Jobs. Thank goodness for Alex Gibney’s Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine then, a highly informative and engrossing documentary which tells us more than any biopic could. Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray, is it worth a look?

The Man in the Machine starts with some tear-filled self-shot videos of Steve’s devout fans saying how much his death has affected them and how, despite never meeting him, he is their hero. If you think that’s strange, this is followed by ‘the whole planet feeling a loss’ as we see footage of streets filled with mourners, flower memorials and all sorts of emotional breakdown around the death of this man. It’s described by a newsreader as a ‘global wake’. And that’s exactly what it was. I’m sure you remember it – hell, maybe you were even part of it. But this mystified Alex Gibney, who sets out to find ‘what accounted for the grief from millions of people that didn’t know him’, especially considering Steve Jobs wasn’t a singer, civil rights leader or anyone who would ordinarily evoke love, inspiration and joy out of people. He was just a tech developer. And as Gibney states in his narration, ‘behind the scenes Jobs could be ruthless, deceitful and cruel’, something many didn’t know when Jobs passed. This film explores this in depth.

Due to this exploration, many of Steve’s fans have accused Gibney of being mean-spirited and biased (something he’s been accused of before) in his delivery of the story. Some are completely blindly loyal to Jobs and, to this day, refuse to accept he was ever brutal with anyone. But this accusation of being biased and mean-spirited in regards to Steve Jobs is bollocks, because he was often brutal. The stories we hear come from interviews with Jobs’ colleagues, friends and family – and we see an awful lot of Jobs himself in archive footage that doesn’t exactly paint the prettiest picture. As such, Gibney is not being mean-spirited. These are just the facts being delivered. But with the numerous biopics and books since Jobs’ death, this revelation is beginning to lose its impact. When people first started hearing how much of a shit Jobs could be, they were shocked. But now, we shrug and say “that’s Steve Jobs for you!”. It’s no longer a shock.

In any case, The Man in the Machine is an extremely well-made documentary – as we’ve come to expect from Gibney, after his Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side and Emmy-winning Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Clocking in at just over 2 hours, The Man in the Machine is very well paced and covers a huge amount of history from a variety of sources with some cracking archive footage throughout. Gibney continues to prove himself as one of the finest documentary filmmakers working today with this brilliantly constructed piece. Also, listen out for some great tunes on the soundtrack including the live version of One More Cup of Coffee from Bob Dylan’s criminally underrated At Budokan album. Sorry Bob Dylan fans, I like it!

So in conclusion, The Man in the Machine doesn’t really bring anything new to the Jobs table. Especially if you’ve seen either of the films or read the books. Yes, Jobs could be a shit. But this film tells us why and how with more depth than the biopics could. If you want the full story, read Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. If you just want a tiny bit of the story, watch one of the biopics. If you want something down the middle, watch The Man in the Machine. The only problem with it? It doesn’t explain why Jobs made the iPhone battery so shit. I’M ONLY RUNNING ONE APP, WHY IS IT ALREADY ON 20%?!

Engrossing and informative, The Man in the Machine earns a solid 4/5.

Sam Love

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine at CeX

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