“Steve Jobs” is a bio pic with bite.
With a stellar cast and a screenplay from Aaron Sorkin that sizzles from the first word until the final line, this is a much better attempt to capture the man behind Apple than 2013’s ill-conceived attempt featuring Ashton Kutcher.
This time it’s Michael Fassbender playing Jobs, in a performance that is worthy of Oscar consideration. Structured essentially as a three-act play, we see Jobs before three important presentations in his life, culminating in his launch of the iMac.
The three parts show Jobs just before his ouster from Apple, his attempt to compete with the company and his ultimate triumphant return. There is also his struggle to connect with a daughter he initially claims is not his.
Director Danny Boyle keeps this zipping along in a structure similar to “Birdman,” with the constant whirling through the backstage area before each presentation.
Fassbender is fascinating as Jobs, but the cast is full of great performances. You get Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels in full Jeff Daniels’ mode, and – perhaps the biggest surprise – Seth Rogan in a performance that shows a side of the comedic actor we’ve never seen.
The cast is aided by Sorkin’s superb screenplay, with the prose popping off the screen. Sorkin’s dialogue has more snap than your standard action film and I found myself hanging on every conversion. The screenplay is on the same level as Sorkin’s work in “The Social Network.”
And while “Steve Jobs” might be a notch below “The Social Network” in overall product, it is still well worth your time – it’s among the best films of 2015.
Also in theaters
This week’s other new release, “Rock the Kasbah” (D) is the opposite of “Steve Jobs” – it’s loaded with talent in front of and behind the camera that never quite clicks. It’s a film that struggles in tone, largely because its lead actor, Bill Murray, comes off feeling as though he were wedged into the project.
In “Kasbah,” Murray plays Richie, a down-on-his-luck agent who takes his latest talent (Zooey Dechanel) on a tour in Afghanistan. When the singer bails, leaving Richie broke and without a passport, he finds a second chance when he discovers a local singer Salima (Leem Lubany), a Pashtun teenager who dreams of competing on a local “American Idol” type show, despite its policy of not allowing female contestants.
“Kasbah” is inspired by true events, a story that could have been more interesting if Salima was center stage. Instead, Lubany is buried in a cast that also includes Kate Hudson, Danny McBride, Scott Caan and Bruce Willis, leaving Salima way too little screen time.
It also doesn’t help that Richie is the anchor of the film and Murray’s performance feels completely wrong for the movie. It’s as if the project didn’t get green-lighted until Murray’s name was attached, even though Murray doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the material.
That’s not to say Murray is bad, he just doesn’t seem to be the right actor for this film. Director Barry Levinson tries to do his best to make “Rock the Kasbah” work, but ultimately it falls flat, resulting in a film that will be easily forgotten by the time the holiday releases start arriving next weekend.
“Rock the Kasbah” is rated R for language including sexual references, some drug use and brief violence and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.