By Jack Rico
The 1-4-0: Aaron Sorkin’s masterful screenplay eschews biopic tropes to create an uncompromising portrait of Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs.
The Gist: Structured as three-act play, Steve Jobs follows the eponymous co-founder of Apple, Inc. (Michael Fassbender) as he prepares for the launches of the first Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT in 1988, and finally the iMac in 1998, focusing on his relationships with Joanna Hoffman (Kat Winslet), Steve “Woz” Wozniak (Seth Rogen), John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), Andy Hetzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), and his daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, and Makenzie Mos).
What Works: While Danny Boyle’s direction is superb, and the cast brilliant, no review of Steve Jobs can begin without first discussing Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-worthy screenplay. Sorkin’s distinct brand of electric dialogue creates an unparalleled energy that drives the film forward at a breakneck speed. Every word uttered is perfection, each line hinting at deeper meaning, with characters saying more in one line than most manage in entire films. Through whip-crack storytelling Sorkin is able to make the story behind three product-launches one of the most thrilling, heart-racing movies of the year. But it must be acknowledged this isn’t a biopic in the traditional sense. In many ways, this is a distillation of Steve Jobs’ life, boiling down major elements of his life into a streamlined, heavily fictionalized story. Do not approach this film expecting the “true story” behind the co-founder of Apple. Instead, Sorkin frames the narrative around the launch of the Macintosh, the NeXT, and the iMac, giving the audience three distinct snapshots of a man at very different points in his life.
Michael Fassbender is perfectly cast as Jobs, using Sorkin’s text to create a nuanced performance of a complicated man. From the haughty, angry way Jobs carries himself at the start of the film, to the calm and affable demeanor he struggled to cultivate, Fassebender completely embodies the late, great creator. But that doesn’t mean you will like him.
While the film is filled beginning to end with witticisms, this isn’t a fun time at the movies. Fassbender’s Jobs isn’t a likable protagonist by any stretch of the imagination. And while he does go through a considerable amount of growth over the course of the film, finding a form of redemption in his relationship with his daughter and the announcement of iMac, this version of Jobs highlights some of the real man’s worst tendencies. He is a flawed, difficult man, who sees art in the design and experience of a computer while distancing himself from those who helped make him.
What Doesn’t Work: This is an unequivocally excellent film, but don’t expect to have a fun time. You might even leave the film eying your iPhone with contempt.
Pay or Nay: Pay. This is a brilliant film, with an amazing script and brilliant performances. Just don’t expect to leave the theater smiling.