December 8, 2016

Film Review: ‘Steve Jobs’

Steve Jobs is a man who has revolutionized technology with Apple. As a result, he is one of media’s most talked-about subjects. There most likely is not a story about him that has not been told before.

Yet, director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin find a way to tell a familiar story in fresh and frenetic way.

Steve Jobs is loosely based on Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of the same name. While the novel is expansive and focuses on a lot of Jobs’ accomplishments up to his death in 2011, the film follows three of his most iconic product launches. This makes room for an interesting variation on the typical three-act structure of biographical films.

Act one is the rise, act two is the fall and act three is the redemption of the subject. The problem with typical biographical films is that they attempt to tell this structure through too many events, and it is too scattershot. This film chose three and sticks with three. All the intricacies that follow flow naturally, a smart decision by both Boyle and Sorkin.

Act one takes place in Cupertino, Calif. in 1984, where Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is about to unveil the Macintosh. Disaster strikes from the start as the computer will not say “hello,” a feature Jobs insists be fixed.

He has lost his Time cover story he was promised and his ex Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) shows up with their daughter, Lisa (Makenzie Moss), demanding money. Jobs publicly denied paternity of Lisa and Chrisann is living on welfare.

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Contributed by Universal Studios

After the flop of the Macintosh, the film shifts to 1988 in act two at the San Francisco Opera House where Jobs looks to redeem himself after being fired from Apple. He, along with his new company NeXT, is about to release a “black cube” and high-priced computer.

Act three takes place in 1998 at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall where he, after restoring his former glory with Apple, is about to unveil the iMac. By this time, he boasts his signature look of a black turtleneck and glasses. He, after his gigantic failure, is finally back on top of the world.

One of the more well-known and mediocre cinematic outings of Jobs’ life was the Ashton Kutcher-starrer that was as scattershot and unfocused as a biographical film can get. This adaptation avoids those pitfalls by not becoming a “greatest hits” album.

Sorkin, whose previous credits include The Social Network and The Newsroom, is back to writing the dialogue he knows best. Fast-paced conversations make up the majority of the script, comprised of the hard truth and the witty, intricate platitudes that make the characters so interesting.

Taking Sorkin’s script to the big screen is Boyle’s white-knuckle approach to the story. The audience is never given a chance to catch their breath over the thrill ride that is happening. There are no big flashy set pieces, put there is tension in the fact that one is watching a ticking time bomb about to go off: Jobs himself.

Michael Fassbender is a towering presence as the impossible-to-please mogul. His ego is bigger than his will to please those he hurts around him. His character goes from the depths of humiliation to the top of the technology heap and Fassbender makes those transitions beautifully.

Standing up to that monstrous ego is the radiant Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ confidant. She struggles with supporting him in his achievements while making sure he treats his loved ones with the respect they deserve. She’s the perfect yin to Fassbender’s yang.

Seth Rogen shows his dramatic range as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, whose relationship with Jobs falls into complete disarray. Katherine Waterston is sympathetic as his abandoned love and Jeff Daniels is wonderful as John Scully, the Apple CEO who fired Jobs.

The film’s frantic pace is helped by equally frantic camera work by cinematographer Alwin Küchler (Hanna), the fast and furious editing by Elliot Graham (Milk) and the pulsating electronic and orchestral score by Daniel Pemberton (The Counselor).

Steve Jobs is a subject that has been told over and over again. Never before has it been told so brilliantly.

Steve Jobs will be released to theaters Oct. 23, 2015

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