Movie Review: ‘STEVE JOBS’ – Sync Compatible

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

STEVE JOBS | 119 min | R
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston, Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, Makenzie Moss and John Ortiz

Last year, Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed computer inventor Alan Turing in THE IMITATION GAME. Turing was found dead from cyanide poisoning in 1954 with a half-eaten apple by his bedside. Could this have been behind the iconic image of the Apple computer company Steve Jobs started all those years ago?

“We chose it off of a list of friendly words,” says Jobs (Michael Fassbender), without a hint of affability, when a journalist challenges him in Danny Boyle’s moving and fascinating depiction of the Apple impresario.

Jobs, who died in 2011, has been the subject of many documentaries and films, both good and bad. His last feature portrayal, 2013’s JOBS, starring Ashton Kutcher, leaned more toward the latter in its overly sentimental lack of focus.

Enter the pros. Filmmaker Boyle (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (THE SOCIAL NETWORK) and a cast led by Fassbender (12 YEARS A SLAVE) all paint a picture of Jobs to not just be looked at but studied.

Boyle tells the story of Steve Jobs through an unconventional three-part structure centered around the executive’s biggest press events (the Macintosh, NeXT and the iMac). Through this particular lens, audiences get a firm understanding of Jobs, how he failed, how he succeeded, and how he took Apple back from a state of near-bankruptcy into the industry giant of today.

Michael Fassbender stars as the co-founder of Apple Inc. in STEVE JOBS, with Makenzie Moss as his young daughter Lisa. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Michael Fassbender stars as the co-founder of Apple Inc. in STEVE JOBS, with Makenzie Moss as his young daughter Lisa. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Fassbender plays Jobs with the immersive and indelible power of an actor wearing his role like another layer of skin. He shows Jobs as both an innovator in public and a “poorly built” man behind closed doors. This can especially be seen in the scenes between Jobs and his daughter Lisa — played by Makenzie Moss at age 5, Ripley Sobo at age 9 and Perla Haney-Jardine at 19 — whom he initially refused to acknowledge but later reconnected with during the humbling moments of his life.

The chief intrigue of the film, however, comes from Sorkin’s skilled pen. It is an incredible pleasure to watch talents such as Fassbender, Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen perform award-worthy verbal exchanges without any safety nets.

Sorkin ignores the standard biopic formula and instead invokes Jobs’ humanity. We bear witness to a man who is difficult to get along with for his arrogance and ego, yet a man who is imbued with a subtle, slow-building warmth through which Sorkin makes Jobs accessible.

Also, check out our interview with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin here.

Boyle doesn’t fall short in the directing department either, creating intoxicating visuals to back Sorkin’s words. Whether it’s different timelines woven together, festive text scrolling across the screen, or archival footage, Boyle uses all his tools at the proper moments.

Hopefully, STEVE JOBS will kick off a trend of biopics that put less emphasis on appearance and checking off a crowded timeline. Other filmmakers would do well to emulate this movie and the titular man: Cut the unnecessary details, break from past industry standards, and instead home in on the emotional core at the heart of every great story, fiction or nonfiction.

Grade: A

STEVE JOBS is playing in limited release today, and opens nationwide tomorrow.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.