A Review of The Corporation

Uday SchultzDecember 30, 2016Money and ValueMedia

Child labor, extreme pollution, absence of human rights, starvation wages, no guilt — is this the apocalypse?

No, it is the modern day corporation as portrayed by directors Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott along with writer Joel Bakan in the two-and-a-half-hour documentary The Corporation, released in 2003. Bakan and Achbar met at a funeral and discovered a shared interest in globalization. Realizing there was not yet a documentary on this topic, they decided to collaborate on a film along with Abbott.

The Corporation makes the argument that big business is taking over from actual government. Throughout the first half of the movie the corporation is treated as a legal person, its behavior measured against a checklist used by psychiatrists to diagnose psychopaths. This sets up a structure for the rest of the movie that is divided up into many segments, each devoted to a different subject. Environmental impact, human rights violations, child labor, and manipulative marketing are just a few of the topics covered. Arresting graphics and sinister music increase the feeling of shock and hopelessness. The movie starts with a series of flashing company logos, interspersed with images and footage. This is then overlaid with music and narration making for a very strong opening scene.

The movie exposes many unheard-of chemicals in everyday food, water, and air and how corporations exploit human suffering. It includes countless interviews with corporate C.E.O.s, documentary producers, factory workers, and thinkers against corporate culture. As the movie progresses through the checklist there is increasing evidence of the corporation as psychopath. From Monsanto, which makes toxic chemicals for such companies as Liz Clairborne and Nike, and also exploits cheap labor in poorer countries, the film depicts the corporate world as ever present in our lives in ways that are mostly negative.

The movie is a shocker, controlling the viewer and revealing the crooked inner workings of big business. The idea of the corporation as an unfeeling psychopath, with disturbing footage and insight into the callous interior of corporate greed, make for a powerful and revealing movie. When I saw the footage from inside a factory in Honduras where the workers were paid starvation wages, it was so shocking that I couldn’t stop thinking about it for hours.

Its variety of revelations and shifts of content and music make sure that the viewer stays riveted. However it is a one-sided argument with almost no representation from the side of the corporation. It would be interesting to see the individual corporations’ perspectives or to learn about corporations that are doing good. Only one corporate entity, Interface, a carpet manufacturer, is depicted positively for their environmental awareness. It would be more balanced if the movie didn’t force a singular opinion on the viewer and would let him formulate his own opinion. Despite this, I would highly recommend The Corporation as a movie that makes a very powerful argument in a very interesting and persuasive manner.

Overall, The Corporation reveals a world where money is more valuable than life, human well-being, and nature.

Uday Schultz is fourteen years old and in eighth grade at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York. He enjoys looking at and editing maps, reading, hiking, and debating.