Sprawling, fascinating documentary about that all-powerful contemporary institution, the multinational corporation, charting its growth from its origins in post-Civil War America to its status today as the driving force behind global politics, greed, pollution, and human suffering.
Mixing footage from campy old educational films, protest events, glimpses of first world boardrooms and third world factories, and (mostly) intelligent talking heads supporting all sides of a complex issue, The Corporation feels epic – and at two and a half hours, its very length might scare away some. But I never found it boring. The doc is a fine blend of despair and hope, ultimately showing a light at the end of the tunnel but making it clear that it's up to us to find the way, not the corporations themselves. It sounds preachy, but although the filmmakers' point of view may be obvious, their film is less one-sided than it at first appears. Even gadfly Michael Moore, appearing as one of numerous commentators, concedes that his own success is due to corporate support: the studios, the publishing companies, and the TV networks that bring his work to the public.
The true hero of The Corporation, however, is Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, Inc., the world's largest carpet manufacturer, who saw the light and is determined to make his company environmentally responsible. Anderson's humble, penitent testimony is so affecting that all one can wish is that more corporate leaders come around to his way of thinking – which probably won't happen, but still.
The Corporation does its part to remind its largely liberal audience that we are all complicit as long as we keep on buying Nike shoes, Coca Cola, Shell Oil, and just about everything else, without demanding more ethical corporate policies. Even the mightiest of companies is beholden to the consumer dollar, the film says, so we the consumers need to find out where each dollar is going and ask ourselves if it's a business we truly want to support. After watching sweatshop workers making 17 cents to make a $50 designer shirt, it seems impossible to argue against this point.