×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

With ‘Steve Jobs,’ Fassbender Shoots to the Top of This Year’s Best Actor Oscar Race

Aaron Sorkin provides the words but Michael Fassbender turns them into music.

TELLURIDE, Colo. — The truth is I half anticipated Michael Fassbender to be a weak link of Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs,” which world premiered as a “work in progress” here Saturday night. Something about the repressed accent in the trailer and the curious casting call in the first place, maybe. Whatever the case, let’s just say the “Shame” and “12 Years a Slave” star crushes the role of the eponymous tortured genius and then some in a film that takes bold strides within a well-worn genre and is sure to take off throughout the season…if the character doesn’t put viewers off, that is.

Because that can sometimes be a hurdle. Jobs is very unlikable throughout. It’s the borderline thesis of the film: “It takes a**holes to invent the future.” But that’s what’s so compelling about the picture in this conception. It’s not a greatest hits biopic. It’s a character study interested in how Jobs grows within a 14-year span (the launch of the Macintosh in 1984 through the launch of the iMac in 1998), focusing on his innovations at Apple, his eventual release from the company, his relationship with a daughter he wouldn’t claim for years, his triumphant return to the Apple fold and his volatile rapport with co-workers and colleagues.

Some are already calling it “Birdman” by way of Aaron Sorkin, and there’s a lot of that in there. The gifted scribe’s rat-tat-tat delivery on the page must have yielded a script full of white space, because it’s wall-to-wall dialogue. Like another film at the fest dependent on talking-head drama, Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” it falls on the editor (Elliot Graham) to keep things moving, and indeed, the choice of structuring the film with a series of near-vignettes helps this immensely. But Sorkin has done a marvelous job of picking the right moments of this particular span of time and conveying them with smart and casual ease.

But back to Fassbender: he completely owns the screen for the film’s 125-minute running time. Co-stars Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston and John Ortiz, among others, provide lots of color. And Winslet and Rogen in particular fill in crucial interpersonal shading for Jobs the character. But Fassbender is possessed here, and therefore a no-brainer best actor Oscar contender who just shot to the top of that list alongside gentlemen like Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”) and Johnny Depp (“Black Mass”) this year.

So call it a contender. “Steve Jobs” just made perhaps the biggest splash of the 42nd Telluride Film Festival so far. And count on Universal hoping that five-year streak of best picture screenings here in the San Juans extends to six.

More on this film, I’m sure, in due time. Keep a lookout for Justin Chang’s official Variety review soon.

More Film

  • First Look at Cannes-Bound ‘Diego Maradona’

    First Look at Cannes-Bound ‘Diego Maradona’ Feature Documentary

    Diego Maradona waves to raucous Napoli fans before heading into a media scrum and press conference in the first clip from the feature documentary about the soccer superstar. “Diego Maradona” is the third film from the team behind the award-winning “Senna” and “Amy,” with Asif Kapadia directing and James Gay-Rees and Paul Martin producing. They [...]

  • Raising Hell: The Life and Times

    Film Review: 'Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins'

    One of the more entertaining as well as insightful political commentators of the past half-century is paid a suitably entertaining tribute in “Raise Hell.” A long tall Texan too amusingly outrageous to draw real resentment from most of her targets, Molly Ivins nonetheless aimed stinging criticism at political figures both national and in her native [...]

  • The Lighthouse

    Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Unveils Lineup

    Robert Eggers’ anticipated “The Lighthouse” with Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, Luca Guadagnino’s medium-length film “The Staggering Girl” and Japanese helmer Takashi Miike’s “First Love” are set to unspool at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight under the new leadership of Paolo Moretti. Described by Moretti as a “hypnotic two-hander” powered by Pattinson and Dafoe, “The Lighthouse” is [...]

  • Media Luna Acquires ‘We Had It

    Cannes Festival: Media Luna Takes ‘We Had It Coming,’ ‘The Friendly Man’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    In the run-up to next month’s Cannes Festival, Cologne-based Media Luna New Films has acquired international rights to “We Had It Coming,” starring Natalie Krill (“Wynonna Earp,” “Below Her Mouth”) and Brazil’s “The Friendly Man,” one of the standouts at Ventana Sur’s strong Copia Final showcase of near-finished Latin American movies. MK2 Mile End will [...]

  • ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Stars Make Emotional Speeches

    ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Stars Make Emotional Speeches at Historic Marvel Premiere

    If more than twenty worldwide blockbusters over ten years sounds like a big undertaking, try locking up the cell phones and smartwatches of Hollywood’s most important people for four hours. Only a franchise with the cache of the “Avengers” series could have A-list talent, celebrity fans, agents and executives gladly turn over their gadgets for [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame' First Reactions: 'Most Emotional, Most Epic MCU Film'

    The end is finally here. “Avengers: Endgame” had its world premiere Monday night at the Los Angeles Convention Center and reactions on social media from fans, journalists and critics are already pouring in. The reaction has so far been almost universally positive, with several commentors warning fans of the movie’s emotional elements. Brandon Davis wrote [...]

  • Josh Brolin, Kathryn Boyd. Josh Brolin,

    'Avengers: Endgame's' Josh Brolin: Thanos' Butt Is a 'Beautiful, Purple Peach'

    On the eve of “Avengers: Endgame’s” world premiere, everyone’s thoughts have turned to the one crucial detail that could be the difference between life or death for the Avengers: Does Thanos have a butt? “I don’t know what that whole thing is about! I really don’t!” Josh Brolin, who plays Thanos, told Variety‘s Marc Malkin [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content