steve_jobs_1Year: 2015
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer(s): Aaron Sorkin, Walter Isaacson (book)
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
Rating: R
16mm, 35mm, Digital, Color, 122 mins

Synopsis: Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac. (Source)

Steve Jobs is best viewed as a spiritual successor to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s own The Social Network. As in that film, Sorkin again plays fast and loose with artistic interpretation to deliver an oft-times overwhelming character study dissecting the true cost of genius. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs can be viewed in a variety of ways depending on your perspective – cruel, intelligent, visionary, flawed, human. In the best way, Sorkin and director Danny Boyle let you decide, never succumbing to a needless hagiography, but a smart, elegant portrait that showcases the mastermind behind some of recent history’s biggest breakthroughs. In that way, Boyle and Sorkin focus not on the technology that’s changed our lives so much, but the flesh, blood and guts that made it all happen. Utilizing a brilliant performance by Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs is an irresistible look at one of the most enigmatic figures of our time.

Rather than a by-the-numbers biopic, the film is centered around three product launches from Jobs’ career. Spanning failure, second chances and ultimately innovation, the plot is a tense snapshot of the behind-the-scenes drama that may have constantly tried to derail Jobs’ ambitions. As he initially struggles to get a computer to say “hello”, and then later introduces the iMac, we observe as Jobs balance career success with a disintegrating personal life. Thanks to a snappy, tight script from Sorkin, each carefully selected era from Jobs’ life paints a vivid snapshot of a man whose inability to never look back or settle on anything less than perfect kept everyone at a distance, but also never failed to impress.

What the film does best is break down both the good and bad in Jobs’ frenetic personality, allowing us to see things from different angles and in a slightly more objective light. Framed around Jobs prepping giant product reveals allows characters with different perspectives and personas to mentally spar with him about his creations and ideas. It also gives as an inside look at a masterful puppeteer, using tension to bring out the best and worst in those around him to reach seemingly impossible end goals. Through it all, we observe a man whom people want to cheer for, regardless of his faults, and someone who kept his humanity hidden to let his legacy speak for itself. This allows us to see Jobs from the outside looking in, never really demystifying him but giving him more humanity than he’s been allowed before. Eventually, the film points out the big irony behind the man – that his innovations connected those around him to each other, even if he couldn’t quite connect with those around him. In this way, Jobs’ imposed isolation is a perfect narrative vessel about the nature of human connection and its relationship with perceived progress.

steve_jobs_3The heart of Jobs’ success is naturally Michael Fassbender’s focused portrayal of the troubled pioneer. Unfolding over more than a decade, Fassbender evokes Jobs’ solidarity in poignant ways, as not someone who is stagnant, but rather a constant force of nature, no matter what’s thrown his way. So much of the character is understated, told to us through a stray glance or in between the meticulously inflected words of Fassbender’s calculated cadence. Despite the deliberate delivery, Fassbender makes things feel natural and real. While the film is mostly the Fassbender show, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg and Jeff Daniels are all strong supporting acts, offering wildly diverse characters who are inexplicably drawn to Jobs for differing reasons.

As one character in the film puts it, people should be more than just binary, free from the constraints of black-and-white judgment, and that’s what Steve Jobs does best. Like the man himself, the story takes on a new light depending on the way we look at it, and Boyle lets the material and Fassbender’s performance take center stage with a tight, unrelenting rhythm. Pulling back the curtain on one of history’s most influential men, Steve Jobs is akin to a modern, psychological version of Wizard of Oz, just a lot more real and without the overt happy ending.