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With: Rosario Dawson, Imogen Heap, Tim Draper, Lauri Love, Spiros Michalakis, Joseph Lubin, Mark Jeffrey, Gramatik, Vinay Gupta, Laura Shin, Bill Tai
Written by: Alex Winter
Directed by: Alex Winter
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 84
Date: 10/26/2018

Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Web Sage

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This documentary is perhaps more speculative than factual, and it's sometimes confusing or contradictory, but it contains useful, and even potentially exciting, nuggets of information on blockchain.

In Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain, actor-turned-documentary filmmaker Alex Winter attempts to disentangle the concept of blockchain from the concept of bitcoin. Blockchain is a way of decentralizing the internet, putting more control in the hands of individual users and less in the hands of centralized, powerful corporations. Bitcoin is a controversial but popular form of online currency that wouldn't have been possible without the development of blockchain.

Narrated by Rosario Dawson, the movie is enthusiastic about the future of blockchain, and its possible uses for things like keeping power grids on, giving refugees traceable identity papers, and even solving hunger. But it also demonstrates that those in power will stop at nothing to keep the old ways intact, including the attempted prosecution of hacker Lauri Love.

Directed by Alex Winter (known as "Bill" from the Bill & Ted movies), Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain attempts to speak to viewers who are not exactly tech geniuses, and it doesn't speak down to its audience, but it will seem like gibberish to technophobes. Even smart viewers may wish for a few extra moments to process information, or perhaps a few more charts or graphics to illustrate a point.

The movie does a fine job of separating the concepts of "bitcoin" and "blockchain," a confusion that has plagued many, but it's unable to say whether bitcoin is the future of currency or a bubble that will burst (like the infamous "tulip fever"). It's more enthusiastic about blockchain, and uses examples that are hard to oppose. It can provide regular folks with energy, food, and other crucial things; it will change the currently flawed system by which artists make money from their art.

Yet, in the narration, Dawson admits that all this will likely need some kind of regulation. The movie also provides a handy villain: greedy, powerful corporations, which will use all their might to squash any little upstarts that threaten their positions. Trust Machine does make a compelling argument for blockchain as something that could potentially save the world. We just have to wait to find out.

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