Since his untimely death in 2011, Steve Jobs has been reincarnated a number of times on the big screen. From the parody film iSteve, to the attempt at a serious biopic in 2013, Jobs, it would be fair to think that this story might already be rather exhausted. However, in Steve Jobs, director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin present us with a very different take on arguably one of the most remarkable figures of the past 100 years. And it’s certainly one you shouldn’t miss.
Sorkin’s three-act structure follows Jobs (Michael Fassbender) during his last-minute preparations before the product launch events for the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT computer in 1988, and the iMac in 1998. The film boasts a fantastic cast, with standout performances from Jeff Daniels as John Sculley, the ruthless CEO of Apple Inc., and Kate Winslet as marketing executive, Joanna Hoffman – perhaps the only one who truly understands Jobs, despite his many flaws. But it is without a doubt Fassbender who steals the show. His formidable portrayal of Jobs perfectly strikes the balance between unrelenting genius and conflicted father figure as he continually rejects claims of paternity. He manages to condense a whole plethora of emotions into subtle nuances that speak volumes, such as the way he composes his face when talking to his alleged daughter, or his habit of focusing in on a single moment. I wouldn’t be surprised if, come January, we see Fassbender receive his second Academy Award nomination.
It’s not just the acting that makes Steve Jobs brilliant – nearly every other component fits together wonderfully. Boyle’s films are always overflowing with energy, which is why his direction is the ideal match for Sorkin’s fast-paced dialogue. From the very beginning we are thrust into uncompromising technical jargon, but make no mistake: this is not just a film about the man who revolutionized countless aspects of our lives – from our methods of communication to how we learn – but it is equally a universal tale of becoming a parent and the inevitable reflections on your own childhood that this entails.
“His formidable portrayal of Jobs perfectly strikes the balance between unrelenting genius and conflicted father figure”
Of course, this is a lot to convey in the film’s 122-minute running time. Much like its title, the film gets straight to the point – it is so tightly constructed and edited that every flashback makes you feel as though you’ve been holding your breath, only to let it out as we glimpse a part of Jobs’ past.
Comparisons to The Social Network will be unavoidable, even if they are unfair. They are both written by Sorkin and have a similar premise: real people who changed our use of technology. Nevertheless, the themes are widely different. Steve Jobs could have easily chosen to follow The Social Network’s algorithm of analyzing the breakdown of a friendship (substituting Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin for Jobs and Wozniak), but thankfully it doesn’t. Just like the eponymous character, the film finds its success in using unconventional, yet ambitious, ideas – who would have thought of a biopic with only three key moments?
“[the film] is so tightly constructed and edited that every flashback makes you feel as though you’ve been holding your breath”
In spite of a troubled production – having been abandoned by David Fincher at the beginning and Sony Pictures at the end – by no means does this film feel second hand. Admittedly, I was initially skeptical of Boyle taking on the project, but there were many times throughout the film that proved he was ultimately the right choice. In particular, it is a testament to Boyle that one of the most intense conversations between Jobs and Steve Wozniak (played with surprising complexity by Seth Rogen) is made all the more intimate by the physical distance created as they stand at opposite ends of an auditorium.
Although he may be disappointed by the poor box office performance, Boyle has demonstrated that a film can be intelligent and exhilarating without unnecessary promiscuity or random explosions. To quote the film, if you do nothing else this week but watch Steve Jobs, “it will have been well worth it”.