After its aggressive release strategy imploded, Universal Pictures pulled Steve Jobs out of theaters at an alarming rate. As fast it arrived it in theaters, it was left to die alone amidst a collection of salty, sticky empty seats. Even when Steve Jobs was enthralling critics, it had a cloud hovering around it as its legitimacy was called into question. Many of Steve Jobs’ confidants and family members lambasted the film for drawing Apple’s momentous leader as a megalomaniac that loved dick measuring contests. One could easily understand why Jobs’ friends and family would want to bypass the blemishes on the technological titan’s life, but worship should always come at a price. It should never be blind, which is in part why I loved Steve Jobs. Sure there are operatic moments where Jobs’ genius swallows us up like a crushing wave from a typhoon, but we’re given the rare invitation to see the deadly guile a person needs for success in a world where everyone is violently scratching for their share.
This notion of a cutthroat industry isn’t anything new for screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, where his screenplay for The Social Network brazenly dissected the rise of Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook. The comparisons between Steve Jobs and The Social Network are obvious, but the former is a much warmer biography. Set during three separate product launches (1984, 1988, and 1998), Steve Jobs is very much a chamber piece. Within the confines of three separate performance halls, Jobs (Michael Fassbender) slips and slinks through hallways as he prepares his keynote speeches. As he positions himself for stardom or rebirth, depending on where we are in his professional timeline, he encounters a cavalcade of characters seeking his attention just before the “big moment.” From technological deficiencies threatening a product launch to questions about his relationship with his estranged daughter, Jobs is bombarded with moments that not only threaten his grasp of the future, but his stature as a Silicon Valley deity.
Far from plot driven, much of the film’s drama emanates from the delicious discourse slipping off our character’s tongues. Sorkin’s dialog is often criticized for its breadth and depth, as well as the rate in which it comes speeding out of character’s mouths. But being that many of the characters are smart and well read, it only makes sense that their words cut as precise and as deep as a rapier. Even the most pretentious, over involved lines land because they’re delivered with an intense conviction. Sorkin’s war of words between characters is greatly heightened by Daniel Pemberton’s percussive cues. They’re urgent, chaotic, and wonderfully illuminating. The sonic waves bouncing down the halls are given more strength through tremendous performances from the likes of Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jeff Daniels, and Katherine Waterston, all of which will get some level of Oscar talk come January. But, to no one’s surprise, Michael Fassbender is fantastic as the title character.
Fassbender isn’t an exact replica of Jobs physically, but he does possess the man’s air of significance. Fassbender’s sole physical presence is captivating; we can’t help but be drawn towards him. His assured posture and calculating eyes paint the picture of a man who is not only the smartest man in the room but knows it. Obviously, Jobs comes across as a bit of a prick, but Fassbender imbues him with enough charm and honesty that we are willing to stay with this man long enough to see the wizard behind the curtain. If Fassbender is the outright star of Steve Jobs, than Danny Boyle is its quiet shepherd. Boyle, known for his kinetic editing techniques, dials back his tendencies and simply lets his masterful actors orchestrate Sorkin’s suffocating screenplay. Beyond a visual flourish here and there, Boyle is left unseen but he helps deliver one of the best films of the year. Now, Steve Jobs isn’t a self-prescribed factual recreation. As a matter of fact, its creators don’t even pretend it is. In reality Steve Jobs uses fiction as a conduit in to the mind of a legend. Its goal isn’t to drag his name through the mud, but to make a god that much more human.