Six-Pack Cinema

Six films that explore the opportunities and limitations of technology

The 1970s TV show The Six Million Dollar Man opened with the futuristic promise of saving an astronaut’s life by rebuilding him with bionic parts, intoning, “Gentlemen, we have the technology.” The possibilities and pitfalls of our technology have long been the fascination of filmmakers. Upload these six films to see what we mean.

Steve Jobs (2015)
Danny Boyle’s biopic on the Apple CEO and fabulist focuses on three days in Jobs’ life, immediately prior to the carefully orchestrated launch events for various Apple computer products. In each, the viewer sees the public image of the entrepreneur contrasted with his tumultuous private life. Michael Fassbender captures the enigmatic paradoxes of this controversial figure, but Aaron Sorkin’s loquacious script fails to make Jobs more understandable, let alone likable. —M. F.

The Imitation Game (2014)
This is the story of Alan Turing (Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch), who invented the computer. A British mathematician whose team deciphered the Nazi Enigma code that was instrumental in winning World War II, Turing also was a closeted homosexual at a time when that was a criminal offense in England. The movie artfully balances the code-cracking thriller elements with the antisocial Turing’s emotional struggles. —P. G.

Apollo 13 (1998)
Based on the true story of Jim Lovell’s heroic crew, the film charts the tense hours of the famed space flight as engineers on the ground attempt to devise a plan to prevent disaster aboard the crippled command module as it attempts to return home. Ron Howard’s crisp direction and solid performances from Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon and Gary Sinise (among a large and starry cast) make this piece of history soar. —M. F.

Electric Dreams (1984)
A nerdy architect buys a powerful computer to assist him in organizing his life, and accidentally makes the computer sentient with a wayward glass of champagne. Then the architect finds himself in an awkward love triangle with the beautiful cellist upstairs…and his computer. This unlikely comedy from the beginning of the digital era is sweet, and the graphical depictions of the computer’s consciousness and the thrumming electronic score by Giorgio Moroder still have their quaint, dated charm. —M. F.

THX1138 (1971)
George Lucas’ first feature film stars a young Robert Duvall as a hapless drone within an underground dystopian society of the future. Dominated by the computers and robots that surround them, THX and his roommate gradually become aware of their controlled existence and seek to escape. Lucas depicts this world with a compelling visual style that conveys the crushing impact of technology run amok. —M. F.

Desk Set (1957)
The last film comedy to pair Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn has the two on opposite sides of the technological divide. Tracy plays an engineer testing a new computer and Hepburn is the TV network researcher whom the device is intended to replace. The stars are comfortable in their romantic interplay, though they are both too old to be truly credible. The woman vs. machine struggle ends predictably, especially since it pits the formidable Miss Hepburn against an early—and balky—computer. —M. F.

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