It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Perhaps one of the most unfortunate but inevitable reactions to Alex Gibney’s “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” would be that it’s a “takedown” of the Apple co-founder. It’s not. Surely, the film subjects Jobs’ cult of personality to such severe scrutiny that it goes a long way toward dismantling it. But that’s part of a complex portrait that gives as much weight to Jobs’ world-changing talents as to his personal flaws.
In contrast to most of Gibney’s documentaries, which are told in a standard third-person style, usually without narration, this one has a more personal tone from the outset, as a way of recognizing and probing the reality that, more than any other figure, Jobs put the “personal” in personal computer and the many, increasingly intimate devices descended from it. As one interviewee puts it, he created machines that “felt like an extension of the self.”
Charting his own relationship to Jobs and his creations via occasional voice-over, Gibney starts off by confessing his own mystification at the worldwide outpouring of grief that greeted Jobs’ death of cancer in October 2011. He had seen such emotional reaction to the untimely demises of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lennon, the filmmaker says, but Jobs was not a heroic civil rights activist or a great artist. What was the meaning that he held for so many people, and was that adulation justified or misplaced?
This premise serves as a springboard for a chronicle of Jobs’ life and career that proceeds in more of a thematic than a chronological fashion, and that includes plenty of material from interviews that Jobs gave over the years. By the subject’s own account, he got interested in computers as a teenager and, by virtue of living in northern California, gained access to companies like Hewlett-Packard and Atari, where he was able to meet like-minded young people and deepen his fascination with professional experience.