Apparently the co-founder of Apple Inc. never listened to the company’s famous slogan, “Think different.” Late in the film Steve Jobs, those words appear on a screen above him after several colleagues call him out on his intense stubbornness. The slogan hovers like a warning as he stands alone onstage before the launch of the iMac. It’s a haunting shot — one of the few moments of silence in the chatty film written by Aaron Sorkin. With this somber image, director Danny Boyle visually summarizes the grand tragedy of the story. Steve Jobs is a shining example of how a director and his star can bring a sharp screenplay to vivid life.
Steve Jobs is essentially a backstage drama. The film takes place mostly in the wings of auditoriums, following Jobs as he walks and talks with friends, family members and colleagues in the precious moments leading up to each product launch.
These characters basically embody Jobs’ conscience. All of them gnaw on his ego and question his actions. Seth Rogen has strong screen presence as the tender yet tough Steve Wozniak. Jeff Daniels and Katherine Waterston are equally effective as Apple CEO John Sculley and Jobs’ ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan. And Kate Winslet delivers a poignant performance as Jobs’ marketing chief — and surrogate older sister — Barbara Hoffman.
Contrasting with his public announcements of new products, Jobs’ deeply personal discussions with these characters make for a surreal spectacle — a man facing the ghosts of his past while paving the way of the future. The film suggests that he thought he was fighting for the world’s future when he was mainly fighting for his own.
Sorkin’s characters wield words like weapons. And Boyle maintains a kinetic pace to match the rapid-fire dialogue. But the film’s greatness ultimately lies in Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Jobs. It’s a raw, towering performance, grounding the pop culture figure in gritty reality without reducing his iconic stature. Aside from sporting his signature outfit in the last act, Fassbender looks and sounds nothing like Jobs, but he captures his essence — warts and all.
Late in his life, the man behind the black turtleneck and jeans emitted nothing but warmth, talking about technology like a kid in a toy store. Fassbender reveals the ruthless businessman behind the scenes. At the same time, he shows the sense of childlike wonder with which Jobs viewed the computer industry.
Steve Jobs is one of the best films of the year. Like the man himself, it’s sharp, imaginative and unforgettable.
Rated R, in wide release