‘The Apprentice’ Review – Donald Trump Gets Scorsese-Esque Origin Story


The big picture

  • the learner
    offers insight into Donald Trump's origin story, turning into something akin to a Martin Scorsese film.
  • Sebastian Stan portrays Trump with nuance by focusing on gestures rather than just an impersonation of his voice.
  • The film delves into the mechanics of deal-making and explores how figures like Roy Cohn influenced Trump's development.

I like Alexis de Tocqueville i Lars von Trier in front of him, Iranian-Danish director Ali Abbasi surveys America from the distance of Europe. This age-old tradition allows for new ideas about how something American is unique or common, with less influence from America's news cycles or opinion-shaping institutions. Abbasi's last, the learner, look at a figure like Donald Trump and see an origin story not unlike that of a Martin Scorsese protagonist. Trump is Henry Hill. Trump is Jordan Belfort. Trump embodies the American dream and is New York City personified, at least in Reagan's Wall Street-crazy 1980s.

The Apprentice (2024)

Against the backdrop of New York City during the 1970s and 1980s, a young Donald Trump embarks on his journey to become a real estate mogul. Tutored by ruthless lawyer Roy Cohn, Trump maneuvers through a world of high-stakes deals and moral ambiguity. The narrative explores the key moments and relationships that defined his rise, highlighting the mix of ambition and controversy that marked his early career. The film offers a compelling portrait of the power and personal costs of success, set against the dynamic and turbulent landscape of a bygone era.

Publication date
May 20, 2024

Ali Abbasi

Execution time
120 minutes

Main genre

Gabriel Sherman

Fable Images

What is 'The Apprentice' about?

An origin story, the learner begins in the 1970swhere a young and upstart Trump (Sebastian Stan) is looking to make a big impact on the New York real estate world. He is partly driven by a desire to impress and outdo his father, Fred Trump (Martin Donovan), whose tough love approach has a different effect on older brother Fred Jr. (Charlie Carrick), which unfortunately turns to substance abuse. Stan brings empathy to young Trump through his eyes and posture as we watch him internalize all of his demanding father's criticism.

Stan chooses to adopt Trump's cadence, but gives up the voice, focusing on his naivety and clumsiness. Skipping the voice is wise: many talented people have failed trying to master it and now the press cycle will have to focus on their actual performance. Following his role as Bucky/The Winter Soldier in eight (and counting) Marvel films, Stan has charted an interesting career, appearing as a purveyor of ultra-rich cannibals in freshand recently in the indie premiere A24 at Sundance A different man.

And now Stan plays a young Trump who knows the rooms he needs to be in to get where he wants to go, but hasn't yet mastered schmoozing and negotiating deals once he's finally inside. This is where attorney Roy Cohn (Jeremy Strong) enter Cohn is the political fixer who gained notoriety by acting as a senior adviser to McCarthy's Communist hearings. Cohn takes Trump under his wing, happy to go along with it, and that relationship is the heart the learner. Strong plays Cohn with an all-consuming intensity. When he speaks, he demands full attention. You can forgive Trump when he doesn't get in Cohn's ribbing, as the nervousness of being in his presence makes it easy for obvious jokes to slip past anyone. In the latter half of the film set in the 1980s, Cohn takes more of a back seat as he is secretly dying of AIDS, and the film suffers as a result. You yearn for more screen time of Stan and Strong acting opposite each other.

'The Apprentice' benefits from its visual style and outstanding acting

Stylistically, the film seems to be influenced by Succession and Adam McKay's other HBO series Winning time, with documentary-style hand-held cameras and a 16mm blurry look that reflects newsreel footage of the time. This is often woven seamlessly into the film. New Order's “Blue Monday” heralds the film's transition into the 1980s, as the grainy look of film gives way to analog tape. These are obvious artistic choices that are nonetheless effective.

Maria Bakalova as Ivana Trump is one of the highlights of the film as she captures the interiority of an independent and business savvy woman. who falls in love with this clumsy and ambitious young man who strangely does not drink or smoke. Their well-choreographed meeting and subsequent courtship make the dissolution of their marriage in the second half of the film ring with real emotion.

What is the art of dealing in 'The Apprentice?'

When the Fyre Festival debacle went down in 2017, it was pointed out that we only care because it turned into a disaster. Yes Billy McFarland He had pulled everything off at the last second and his music festival became a resounding success, the narrative would revolve around how he is a maverick for not waiting for permission, for making deals first and figuring out details later. The line between thief and genius entrepreneur in America is dangerously thini the learner makes that connection with Trump. In a key moment, explaining how business is done in America, Trump promises Hyatt that his new hotel with them will be free of property taxes. Hyatt can't believe it, especially when things are so bad financially in New York. But they are impressed. After the meeting, Trump rushes to Cohn to save the day, which typically involves less-than-legal tactics. the learner points out that this is exactly how large-scale deal-making is accomplished in America.

At the end of the film, when he talks to the reporter he tapped to write his book, Trump talks about how, for him, the deal is everything. It's the business version of “It's the journey, not the destination.” the learner he maintains a similar fascination with the mechanics of making deals, that is, that unwavering self-confidence and simplicity of presentation appear as the two main criteria for closing deals of any scale. And so, while he's rarely the smartest guy in a given room, more than once we see how effective Trump is at getting things done. He does this by keeping it simple and reminding everyone over and over how great this particular project is going to be for those who give it the green light. Third, if push comes to shove, Cohn is usually able to pull in a strong favor, often through more not-so-legal maneuvers.

It wouldn't be a Trump movie without a few appearances from the extended Trump universe. While there are no young people Steve Bannon with two buttons together, many others appear. a young man Roger Stone (Marc Rendall) — who has yet to adopt his trademark robber baron garb — senses an opportunity for Trump in the political realm. So it features a mostly dismissive Trump running for office. Weirdest cameo goes to Andy Warhol (Bruce Beaton), who appears briefly at a Cohn party, alluding early on to Cohn's secret life as an odd man out, something Trump doesn't consider until he runs into Cohn in the middle of a late-night orgy the evening.

'The Apprentice' is a double-edged sword of a film

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Image via Cannes

A perceived weakness of the learner it is truly a force. From Trump and Ivana's friendly meeting to Trump's eventual overcoming of his need for his mentor Cohn, Abbasi and his collaborators frame these familiar story beats in a simple way, refraining from 'take many narrative risks. By framing it this way, Trump is more neatly equated with all the other characters (the aforementioned Belforts and Henry Hills) who came before him. When you consider the long line of con artists and mythmakers this country has produced (and will continue to produce), Trump is not unique, and so his story is plainly told, without special treatment. Abbasi does his best to present a drama as freed from the current 21st-century Trump baggage we know as well as possible, while also explaining how this New York City-obsessed young man became the man he simultaneously became. . trial and presidential candidate in 2024.

I like Alex Garland in Civil war, Abbasi often lets you draw your own conclusions. Are the lines about never admitting defeat related to the January 6 riots? Different viewers will leave with different interpretations. But every now and then the learner will slip and allow a line of dialogue that points so openly to what is going on with contemporary Trump that there can be no mistaking it. To a large extent, these moments ring false in a film that otherwise prefers to be taken as a drama on its own cinematic terms. The period spell cast by throwback visuals and engaging performances is broken at these moments, all for cheap laughs.

What is the responsibility of an artist, to the truth, to his subject and to his audience? Where you find yourself in this matter can inform how you approach and ultimately deal with the learner. If you're in the field where an artist has minimal responsibilities outside of creating great art, then you shouldn't have a problem with the idea of ​​a biopic trying to get into the headspace. a deeply polarizing public figure currently running for the presidency of the United States. states If you think there are stricter rules for these things, then you might take issue with the timing and handling of the Trump origin story the learner– it is irresponsible that this film comes out in an election year. But art is not bound to electoral cycles. There is no time like “not the time” for an artist's point of view. In the end, the learner it's a film that delves into the figures who shaped Trump's worldview without ever turning into a corridor for the bad behavior of men like him.

Promotional image of the film The Apprentice 2024

The Apprentice (2024)


The Apprentice has engaging performances and effectively captures its era, even if it occasionally breaks its own spell for cheap laughs.


  • Sebastian Stan and Jeremy Strong are excellent in their roles and their relationship is the heart of the film.
  • While some of the artistic visual choices are obvious, they are still effective in immersing us in this moment in time.
  • Maria Bakalova is a standout, capturing the interiority of the business-savvy Ivana who falls for Trump and bringing real emotion.

  • The film will occasionally wink at the audience, breaking the period spell being cast and taking us out of the film.

the learner had its world premiere at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival.


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