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Movie Review: 'Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine'

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney has trained his eye on a new subject. After making films on Enron, on Scientology and on WikiLeaks, he now examines one of technology's most influential figures. Film critic Kenneth Turan has this review of "Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine."

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Where the personal computer was concerned, it was the gift of Steve Jobs to be a key player in both the stake and the sizzle. He was present at the creation of those epochal machines, but he really made his mark in the creative ways he sold them.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE")

STEVE JOBS: Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.

(APPLAUSE)

JOBS: And we are calling it iPhone.

TURAN: In this engrossing, at times unflattering, documentary on Steve Jobs, Alex Gibney uses his well-known mixture of talking heads, archival footage and journalistic zeal to provide a brisk summation of a familiar life - or more accurately, lives. For Jobs seemed to have been more people than one would've thought possible. Jobs had the gift of making things seem personal, of knowing what consumers wanted before they knew they wanted it. Here one of his employees talks movingly about the man's accomplishments.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The iPod, the iPhone and the iPad are so personal. They are warm in your hand. They sing to you when you're alone. They are caressed.

TURAN: Yet, at the same time, Jobs was a maddening person to work for. He could be, says one former employee, ruthless deceitful and cruel. While another says his relationships with people fell into one of three states. He was either seducing you, vilifying you or ignoring you. Here Bob Belleville, a key engineer, surveys the wreckage.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE")

BOB BELLEVILLE: The work was intense. The commitment needed to do it was intense. I lost my wife. I lost my children.

TURAN: As with his documentary on Scientology, filmmaker Gibney takes on another subject where many potential sources refuse to go on camera. Yet even as former employees detailed Jobs' shortcomings, you can still feel how jazzed they were to actually have known him, how exciting it had been to be working for one of the seminal figures of a generation.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan, he reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.