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Phenomenal performances drive 'Jobs'

By JOE OSTER/VN MOVIE CRITIC
On November 17, 2015

The beauty of “Steve Jobs” is how it fails to tell the entire life story of Steve Jobs.

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin gives us three 40-minute scenes that lead up to the product launches of the original Macintosh, Jobs’ failed NeXT computer, and the first iMac.

There are a couple flashbacks, but everything we see happens more or less in real time.

Sorkin and director Danny Boyle don’t allow themselves to give into the normal constraints of the biopic.

They don’t feel obliged to show us the “greatest hits” of Steve Jobs. Boyle and Sorkin set out to make a great film, not a documentary.

Free from constraints, “Steve Jobs” becomes a playful theme park ride. Each of its three scenes feels as if you’re chugging along to the top of a roller coaster. It builds and builds and builds.

As we follow around Jobs through the catacombs of theatres as he frantically prepares for product launches, you can’t help but be reminded of 2014’s “Birdman.”

Granted, “Steve Jobs” doesn’t use the one-take trickery that “Birdman” does, but Boyle makes his film feel every bit as impressive as last year’s Oscar winner.

Much of that is due to Michael Fassbender, who plays Jobs with simultaneous intimidation and charm.

Even when Jobs is a pompous jerk, you’re still rooting for him; there’s a surprising amount of humor in his performance.

He kills every single scene he’s in, which is almost the entire running time. Every interaction between Jobs and another character is a showdown.

Whether its friend/former partner Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) or Apple Director of Marketing Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), Jobs comes out gunning.

He bites, attacks and dismisses everyone as if they’re coming for his throne, even when they clearly are not.

There isn’t a single performance in Steve Jobs that isn’t phenomenal.

Even the three child actors who play Jobs’ daughter Lisa are terrific.

Watching Fassbender go up against all these Oscar-worthy performers is akin to watching some acting version of a “Mortal Kombat” fight.

Everyone has a chance to go one-on-one with Fassbender, but no one can knock him out.

Daniels is able to trade some punches with him as mentor/frenemy Sculley, but Fassbender won’t concede. He dominates every damn scene.

If Fassbender isn’t walking home with an Academy Award in February, I’ll be stunned.

Sorkin basically wrote a three-act Shakespearean play and allowed Boyle to infuse his iconic imagery. The combination of writing and visuals seduces the audience and pulls you through these backstage labyrinths.

“Steve Jobs” looks, sounds and feels like such a movie, which isn’t a knock against it. Boyle and Sorkin take the bored, worn-out biopic genre and infuse it with life and vigor.

This should be the gold standard to which mainstream, Oscar-baiting films aspire.

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