America's transition into a global financial superpower is unthinkable without the contributions of John Pierpont Morgan. J.P. Morgan: How One Man Financed America is a fast-paced and informative portrait of the banking giant whose financial prowess brought the country back from the brink on several occasions throughout history.
Though he was a chronically sick child, Morgan was born into great advantage. His father had made a splash as a highly successful businessman in the banking sector. It was through him that Morgan achieved early entry into the family business. But it wasn't until his father's passing that he achieved a degree of stratospheric success he could call his own.
The film traces the countless highlights that marked his life. He started his own banking company in 1861, lost his first wife to a tragic illness, and buried himself in work in order to avoid the ensuing grief. He would eventually become the most powerful man in American finance.
His most consequential achievements helped to bail out the United States during tumultuous periods. He brokered an agreement between The Pennsylvania and New York Central Railway companies, which in turn saved the U.S. economy. He revived the country's financial prospects once more when he formulated an escape from the gold panic of 1893. Soon after, he made a deal with Andrew Carnegie, which netted him up to 70% control of the entire U.S. steel production market.
J.P. Morgan: How One Man Financed America moves at a breakneck speed, and barely allows for a breather to fully absorb the intricacies of such a complicated and storied life. For some, the consistently admiring tone of the film's narration may prove troublesome, especially as it recounts the period in Morgan's life when he weaseled out of serving during the Civil War, paid someone to take his place on the battlefield, and found cunning ways to profit off the ensuing carnage.
There is no denying the innovation of the film's presentation, however. What would otherwise be a pedestrian visual landscape of illustrations and photographs are brought to vivid, three-dimensional life. This provides the film with a sense of engagement and forward momentum.