No single figure has mastered the art of consumerism quite like Jeff Bezos. The wealthiest man in the world, Bezos is the mastermind behind Amazon, the largest marketplace on the planet. The probing feature-length documentary Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos makes it clear that Bezos' ambitions are not likely to remain earthbound.
The film opens by recounting the beginnings of the Bezos empire. Not satisfied with his promising career on Wall Street, he struck out on his own by opening an online bookstore. Even in this early phase, Bezos was obsessed with crafting an ideal customer experience. He relied on reams of data to track their purchasing behaviors. Some viewed these methods as undeniably pro-consumer. Others viewed it as exploitative.
These criticisms have become even more urgent today. Amazon currently dominates the world of consumer goods. Users rely on them for their groceries. The company has spread its sphere of influence into the health care and military industries. And recently, they've announced their intentions to colonize the moon.
While the rise of Bezos is astronomically impressive, the film is by no means a glowing puff piece. The filmmakers find many cracks and mob-like tactics behind their American success story façade.
Amazon's strategies to monopolize markets have sabotaged small businesses throughout the world. The company extended an olive branch to many of these businesses by offering the use of their site to sell products. But this gesture came at a price, and the businesses that take part in this partnership are often victim to rising fees and a lack of operational support.
The film features interviews with figures who worked with Bezos during the early days of his business enterprise, entrepreneurs who have felt the sting of extortion while operating their businesses on the platform, and current executives who attempt to explain and excuse the company's strongarm strategies.
The conditions under which Amazon warehouse employees must function has been a particular point of controversy in recent times. The film takes us inside these warehouses where the workers must contend with ongoing surveillance, elevating standards, and low wages and benefits.
The film does an exceptional job of exploring the abuses that demand stricter regulations and greater scrutiny.
Directed by: James Jacoby