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Pirates of Silicon Valley

July 1st, 2019   |   Updated on February 19th, 2022

Biographical look at the men who founded Apple and Microsoft and a look at the early days of the companies. Noah Wyle and Joey Slotnick portray Apple founders Steve Job and Steve Wozniak.

Anthony Michael Hall and John DiMaggio play Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. The film attempts to compare the two firm’s operations and differences in the founder’s operations.

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Movie Reviews: “Pirates of Silicon Valley

Movie Review: salon

This trait of “Pirates of Silicon Valley” is best captured in the two scenes that bookend the film. As it opens, we see Noah Wyle as Steve Jobs talk directly to the camera about the importance of the personal computer revolution. To him and many of the other PC revolutionaries, this wasn’t just an ambitious business venture. “We’re here to make a dent in the universe,” he intones. “Otherwise, why even be here?” As the shot pans back, we see that he’s talking to Ridley Scott (best known then for directing “Alien” and “Blade Runner”), who is in the process of shooting the legendary “1984” commercial that introduced the world to what would soon become the first popular personal computer.

Then we flash forward a decade-and-a-half, during which time Jobs is being hired back by Apple – from which he will be fired by the expiration of the film’s running time – by none other than his nemesis Bill Gates himself (brilliantly captured by Anthony Michael Hall). The image of Gates looms over Jobs, deliberately evoking the Big Brother imagery to which we had been introduced mere moments ago, with Jobs barely concealing his inner anguish as he plasters a fake smile on his face and pretends he is delighted to be reunited with the Microsoft founder. For all intents and purposes, the rest of the movie will cover how Jobs managed to be transformed from the man who imagined himself destroying Big Brother to the man who would be forced to capitulate to Big Brother – and learn to love it.

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Movie Review: nymag

Martyn Burke, who wrote the screenplay for Pirates of Silicon Valley (Sunday, June 20; 8 to 10 p.m.; TNT), claims two sources for every incident we see on the screen. So one supposes this includes the scene of a young Bill Gates on a wild-oats midnight Nibelungen ride on a very yellow bulldozer.

That the founder of Microsoft, before he grew up to be the richest man in the known universe by crushing competition wherever he happened to see it, should have hot-rodded in his geeky youth on a bulldozer is just too perfectly emblematic to believe for a second.

On the other hand, as played so anal-retentively by Anthony Michael Hall in this snarky send-up of the digitheads, Gates is very romantic about the woman he will marry – whereas, as played so manic-depressively by Noah Wyle, Apple’s Steve Jobs won’t even acknowledge that the baby born to Arlene (Gema Zamprogna) is his, much less pay her a measly $20,000. And Jobs, of course, is the lordly charismatic nerd, peering into the circuitry in his garage and seeing “a completely new consciousness,” babbling in leftover sixties guruspeak about “overthrowing the dead culture.” Whereas Gates was always in it for the money; that’s the way he scored.

If Bill plays poker, Steve drops acid. Neither of them – before Jobs stole the mouse and the menu from Xerox and Gates stole the whole idea of Windows from overtrusting Mac; before they became imperial, with Jobs behaving like Caligula and Gates actually becoming Augustus – bargained on becoming as famous as rock stars.

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Movie Review: VARIETY

“Pirates” is about how the greatest technological innovation of the latter half of the 20th century was fueled by a handful of confirmed nerds named Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer — young bucks brassy enough to think they could change the world and naive enough to believe they could deal with the unfathomable wealth and power, and the inevitable fallout, once they did. As Burke illustrates in the film, some were better at handling it than others.

The central character in this saga is Jobs (an intense performance from “ER’s” Noah Wyle), who as co-founder of Apple Computer went from a dope-toking, acid-dropping, spiritual eccentric with a hippie girlfriend to a megalomaniacal, ruthless, bullying and paranoid manipulator.

As shown here, Jobs became so wrapped up in his success and his press that his morality was the computer war’s first casualty — even as he convinced himself that his counterculture ethics remained intact.

Jobs’ bearded partner and Apple co-founder Wozniak (great work from Joey Slotnick) serves as narrator throughout much of “Pirates.” The overriding impression is that the gentle, quiet Wozniak was able to keep his head while Jobs was busy losing his. Wozniak was never the big business guy that Jobs was — he never had the aspirations, and wasn’t cut out for the cutthroat industry that was to spring up.

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