September 25, 2020  (Web Review)

Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos

Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos, 120 min., DVD, $24.99 3.5*

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

In 1995 Princeton University graduate Jeff Bezos left his job at a Hedge Fund in New York City to move to Seattle where he started an online company selling books on an internet site he named Amazon. How the owner of this “futuristic bookstore” went on to become the “richest person on the planet” and how Amazon became an online shopping gatekeeper and global empire is investigated in this probing Frontline program. Voice over explanatory narration and loads of interviews, news clips, and other footage help bring the Amazon story into sharp focus. Former and current Amazon executives answer questions, sometimes deflecting serious concerns about the far-reaching impact of the company and its strong hold on global economy. Of course, most everyone knows that Amazon quickly went beyond book selling to transform into an online retail platform. Beyond that, Bezos purchased the Washington Post, Whole Foods, and other companies, venturing into cloud computing systems, artificial intelligence, facial recognition, music streaming services, movie making, and more.

The dark side of Amazon is revealed as non-unionized workers at Amazon fulfillment centers (the name for the huge warehouses holding merchandise) complain about unsafe and difficult working conditions and book publishers and authors talk about the virtual blockade of selected publishing houses that eventually was resolved, but not before causing economic hardship, especially for first time authors. That Bezos revolutionized one industry after another and has a huge influence on the economy are among both the concerns and accomplishments of this powerful leader. Whether you love or hate Amazon, you will become caught up in the story of this multi-billion dollar company and its founder whose personal life receives brief mention to finish out this eye-opening program. Highly Recommended. Aud: C, P. (S. Beauregard)