Steve Jobs was a personality for the ages. This isn’t even the first film about the now deceased founder and one-time CEO of Apple. Consider the previous films Jobs (2013, with Jobs lookalike Ashton Kutcher) or the Alex Gibney documentary released earlier this year Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine.
Steve Jobs, written by Aaron Sorkin, based on Walter Isaacson’s book of the same name, and directed by Danny Boyle exceeds the scope of previous films on the same subject by becoming drama specific. The film is divided into three equal acts, each one shot with a different format and each one concentrating on a different phase of Jobs’ career. As such we are at the 1984 launch of LISA, the 1988 launch of NeXT, and the 1998 launch of the iMac.
Kudos to German cinematographer Alwin H. Küchler, who captures each segment in a progression of sharper and sharper images, starting in 16mm, then switching to 35mm, then finally wrapping up the whole affair with digital lensing using the Arri Alexa. Indeed, early parts of Jobs are marked by their grainy nature.
In 1984, even though he’s a multi-millionaire Job still hasn’t developed the style that comes with the lifestyle modifications that would define his conquest of the marketing of computers. At the end of the film, two years out from the new millennium, Jobs looks acuminous and focused wearing nothing but wire-rimmed glasses, blue jeans and a dark turtleneck. Remember, in 1998 the internet was still for most people a nascent entity.
Michael Fassbender heads a knockout cast that includes Kate Winslet as Jobs’ assistant Joanna Hoffman, and Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak. Each act pits Fassbender against these characters in verbal conflict that’s masked as friend talk or business talk. Co-starring is Jeff Daniels, really dominating executive roles what with his recent director of NASA in The Martian, and here playing former Pepsi CEO John Sculley.
Katherine Waterston plays Chrisann Brennan who successfully sued Jobs on paternity charges and three young actresses who play Jobs’ daughter Lisa. Also, Michael Stuhlbarg playing longtime Apple employee Andy Hertzfeld has a couple of the script’s best lines. All the actors on display are up to the demands of Sorkin’s dialogue, which rings true with its examination of human emotions ranging from casual business to blowout arguments over who invented what to mere denial of the reality of the whole absurd situation.
Better still is the way Boyle weaves in imagery that incorporates flashbacks and a few subliminal cuts, while keeping the pace brisk and confined to three main locations. Steve Jobs, opening in Houston this weekend, just bursts from the screen with a sense of creativity and ideas. At one point Jobs does a yoga stretch in the middle of a heated discussion with his assistant. Another scene reveals that Jobs is a vegetarian, although that doesn’t prevent his nearly carnivorous domination of his employees. Jobs says “God sent his only son to Earth on a suicide mission and we’re supposed to like him because he created trees,” and he means what he says.
Steve Jobs will enjoy a healthy run enhanced by a simple fact. As soon as this movie ends you want to see it again.
— Michael Bergeron