Movie Review Sample on The Corporation: Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

Paper Type:  Movie review
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1783 Words
Date:  2023-09-25


The Corporation is a documentary film written by Joel Bakan, a law professor at the University of British Columbia and directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbot. The filmmakers focus on assessing and examining modern corporations. The author announces the main problem or objective of the material through a subtitle that says, “The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power” (Encore, 2017). He argues that business corporations have gained massive power and emerged as dominant entities over the past 150 years. The companies have occupied the role of controlling and determining people’s lives, depleting the resources offered by nature, overriding governments, and polluting the environment. The author addresses this by first explaining what corporations are, how they came to be powerful, and how their actions have influenced the modern world.

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The Primary Theme

The documentary, which runs for over two hours, was officially released for viewing on September 10, 2003, at the Toronto International Film Festival. However, the primary theme addressed by the author concerning the dominant nature of corporations is still relevant and witnessed today. The film highlighted that these companies are not only plundering the wealth of the people, but their activities during the quest for profits presents significant risks to the health of individuals and the planet at large. The concept is more relevant in the modern world, especially with the increase in globalization, which has led to the rise of several powerful corporations. Today, these companies are causing substantial damage to the environment, such as land, water, and air pollution through their solid wastes and emissions into the air. Jowit (2010) reported that a study by a London based consultancy Trucost revealed that the environmental damage caused by companies amount to 1.5 trillion dollars. However, the companies are not held accountable for their actions due to their dominant and powerful nature over the world’s activities.

The film defines corporations as a group of individuals who work together to serve a variety of objectives. The primary aim of these groups of people is to earn significant, growing, sustained and authorized returns for the people who own the business. Also, the film identifies a corporation as artificial creations that try to devour maximum profits at the expense of anyone. The documentary compares these institutions to big fish that are capable of swallowing people (Encore, 2017). Despite being an artificial creation, the corporations have garnered massive influence that has overpowered and overwhelmed human beings. Also, the film argues that corporations are monsters that use people for their benefits without accountability to the externalities caused. As individuals, the people within the corporations can be useful and caring for others as part of the moral expectations of a normal human being. However, the large institutions prevent these people from exercising their ethical obligations and turns them to monsters too. Most of the time, these corporations tend to focus more on maximizing wealth more than getting concerned about people's welfare. For instance, the documentary uses the September 11 tragedy, where the business enterprises were worried about the amount of gold exploded, rather than the number of victims of the event.

Corporate Personhood

Corporate personhood means that a company has its independent identity in the eyes of the law (Winkler, 2018). However, this identity is wholly separate from that of the people who compromise it. The notion of corporate personhood started during the industrial age. At this period, corporations existed as associations of people chartered by the states to perform a particular task such as the building of bridges. The few existing corporations during that time had clear stipulations outlined in their state issue charters, which they followed to the latter. However, the industrial revolution and the civil war brought massive growth to the corporations. For example, the end of civil resulted in the formulation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which aimed at providing equal rights to the newly freed slaves. The law stated that no state could deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law—this law aimed at preventing state governments from exploiting the right to the people of color. However, corporate lawyers used the legislation to argue that a corporation is a person and should not be deprived of life, liberty, or ownership of property. As a result, the Supreme Court granted personhood to corporations, and the business enterprises were identified as legal persons and legal rights.

The decision of the Supreme Court led to the granting of specific human rights to the corporations such as the right to own property, free speech, sue and be sued, enter into contracts, and advertise their products. However, these rights have had devastating consequences on the people. For instance, the filmmakers highlighted that companies always manipulate individuals through their advertising techniques on harmful products. They move ahead to deliberately conceal crucial information and data concerning the impacts of their products. Also, the court granted companies the right to free speech, which companies have exploited through their financial powers to suppress the needs and voices of members of society. Corporate personhood extends to political matters where the law allows them to contribute to political issues such as unlimited financial supports to political parties. In doing so, they act as an obstacle to democracy since they use the money to influence people's opinions.


However, the corporations are not entirely toxic to the community, and they can sometimes impact positive change. For instance, the institutions provide employment opportunities to people to earn a living and sustain their primary wants. Also, since their activities cause damage to the environment and climate, some corporations use their vast resources to offer a solution to such problems.

Economists describe externalities as the effect of a transaction between two parties, which is endured or enjoyed by the third party who did not play any role in the operation. According to the film, corporations owe obligations to themselves regarding earning maximum profits and expanding their premises, and therefore they do not consider or observe the concept of loyalty. In doing so, they grow big and profitable to the extent that they can make other people pay for their effects on society and the environment. The concept of externalities emerges in such scenarios when the corporations decide to let other people deal with problems caused by their activities. About this concept, the film compares a corporation to a shark. The institutions are designed to accomplish a specific objective and externalize any cost that they cause in the process.

The film attempts to analyze the type of personality that tends to drive the corporations as an externalizing machine using a case of a psychiatrist and a patient. The filmmakers developed a list of personality traits in the form of a diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. I think this approach is efficient and effective since it identifies the various personality traits of these institutions based on their activities. Also, the manual of mental disorders indicates that if it was a psychiatrist reading, then he will be able to offer a diagnosis. In the assessment, the first externalizing personality of the corporations relates to little or no concern to the feelings of others. These institutions are characterized by offering low wages to individuals despite the hard labor that they provide in delivering quality and expensive services. The second personality trait or disorder in the psychiatrist’s manual is the incapacity of the corporations to maintain enduring relationships. Once the wage rates of a specific region go up, and the people are no longer desperate, the corporations tend to break the connections and move to the next area with cheap labor and desperation for low wages. Also, this approach identified that corporations are deceitful since they suppress data relating to the harm caused by their products. At the end of the assessment, the psychiatry results indicate that the patient (corporations) is a psychopath.

Democrats and Republicans have, most of the time, differ based on their philosophies towards the issues of the economy. While Democrats advocate for maximum government intervention to regulate the economy, the Republicans support limited government involvement in economic matters. However, today, the two parties seem to agree on some economic issues raised by the film. For instance, the Democratic Party is against the economic influence and excessive power of the corporations in the country's affairs. In 2017, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse warned that corporations with massive power have moved into politics to seize for themselves benefits that can only be taken through establishing control over the government (Kennedy, 2017). Also, Republicans, for example, Donald Trump, have criticized large corporations through social media for their corrupt activities (Vogel, 2016). For instance, in his 2016 campaigns, Trump indicated that large corporations and wealthy donors are part of the corrupt political establishment.

According to economist Friedman, the entire world and societies operate based on greed. He indicates that the world runs on individual people trying to pursue their separate interests (Reagan Conservatives, 2017). Therefore, personal greed and self-interest are the only ways in which people can implement positive change in society. However, failure to recognize this notion or departing away from it can cause backwardness and failure of a community. The concept of greed, as explained by Friedman, describes the central thesis of this documentary on corporations. Business institutions are greedy in such a way that they only aim at making money for their shareholders without any specific limit that will guarantee their satisfaction. Friedman holds that corporations should focus on making money and without any charitable giving, diversity awareness, or accountability to their negative impacts.


The current global crisis of Coronavirus is causing noticeable impacts on both individuals and business fraternity. It has disrupted the worldwide supply chain, which has led to a substantial loss in revenues. During this pandemic, I think corporations will use their resources to fight the disease to facilitate the restoration of the natural business environment. After the epidemic, they are likely to implement measures and adopt policies that will ensure the recovery of the lost revenues. It is a decision that they will feel the impact the most and pay for the prices.


Encore. (2017, November 7). The Corporation – Feature, Documentary.

Jowit, J. (2010, February 18). World's top firms cause $2.2tn of environmental damage, report estimates. The Guardian.

Kennedy, L. (2017, March 29). Corporate capture threatens the Democratic government. Center for American Progress.

Reagan Conservatives. (2017, May 20). Milton Friedman on greed.

Vogel, K.P. (2016, October 01). Trump hones attacks on big corporations, donors, and media. Politico., A. (2018, March 1).

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Movie Review Sample on The Corporation: Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. (2023, Sep 25). Retrieved from

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