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‘Steve Jobs’: A talky, nerdy, brilliant drama in three acts

October 7, 2015, 12:37 PM UTC
Courtesy of Universal

To say I’ve been looking forward to this movie is an understatement. Apple is my beat. Aaron Sorkin—whose credits include The West Wing, Moneyball, and The Social Network—is my favorite screenwriter. One of my readers counted the number of stories I’ve already written about the project. This will be my 18th.

To cut to the chase: I loved it.

Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs—which opens Friday in select theaters—is fast, smart and insightful, with flashes of brilliance and lots of nerdy in-jokes the aficionado will appreciate. (I’m a footnote in one of them, having helped report the 1982 Time Magazine Machine of the Year issue that brought the real Steve Jobs to tears.)

Officially, the film is based on Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography. In reality, the script bears only a casual relationship to the facts of Steve Jobs’ life. It’s not the cradle-to-grave biopic Sorkin decided early on he didn’t want to write. It’s not the hit job the defenders of Jobs’ memory feared.

What it is is a vehicle for what Sorkin does best: Drill down to his characters’ deepest psychic conflicts—or what he imagines them to be—and have them talk it out in brainy dialogue that is literally breathless (an effect director Danny (Slumdog Millionaire) Boyle achieves by editing out his actors’ pauses to take a breath).

Sorkin’s three-act format—the 40 minutes or so leading up to Jobs’ keynotes for the Mac, the NeXT workstation and the iMac—is both a strength and a weakness. It gives the movie an easy-to-grasp tentpole structure; it wears a little thin by Act 3.

Aaron Sorkin is like Apple. You either love him or hate him. If you care about Steve Jobs and you like Sorkin, you’re in for a treat.

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (AAPL) coverage at or subscribe via his RSS feed.