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super pumped: the battle for uber

★★★

starring: joseph gordon-levitt, kyle chandler, uma thurman, and kerry bische

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

The roller-coaster ride of the upstart transportation company Uber, embodying the highs and lows of Silicon Valley.

There is nothing more intriguing that a biopic, especially when the subject is less than saintly. From I, Tonya to Steve Jobs and The Social Network we love to immerse ourselves in the lives of the successful but slightly unsavoury individuals. Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber treads a similar path to biopics that have gone before it, but with a super pumped, dynamic performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt that makes this entertaining telly.

With a lift from venture capitalist Bill Gurley and board member Arianna Huffington, Travis Kalanick takes a win-at-all-costs approach to forge Uber, the fledgling start-up, into a multibillion-dollar tech titan. But every surge comes at a price—and as his visionary drive spirals out of control, it threatens to be the downfall of it all.

The Battle for Uber isn’t a particularly trailblazing kinda TV show. It’s the first of an anthology drama series similar in form to the American Crime Story series and it's similar to the biopics of successful but at times horrible tech bosses as seen in The Social Network and Steve Jobs.

 

That’s not to say it’s not an entertaining show. It uses familiar production tricks like aggressive, envelope pushing voice overs that are smashed in between quick smash cuts, title graphics that crowd the screen, and the breaking of the fourth wall. This helps the show to not get bogged down in heavy exposition, but draws the audience in, quickening the pace.

The slight flaw of The Battle of Uber is to be found in its subject, Travis Kalanick. This isn’t to say that Gordon-Levitt isn’t great in the role; he's the perfect building block on which to build the show with his boyish charisma and knowing nod and wink to the camera. But this show isn’t so much about The Battle of Uber but Kalanick himself. It finds itself caught in the no man’s land of not quite being a biopic or a commentary on big tech. The character of Kalanick grabs all the screen time and in doing so the series' driving purpose gets a bit lost.

 

Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber treads a similar path to biopics that have gone before it, but with a super pumped, dynamic performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt that makes this entertaining telly.

★★★