“Steve Jobs” is a winning combination from director Danny Boyle and the almost infallible writing talents of Aaron Sorkin. The setup is deceptively simple, essentially being the story of Steve Jobs’ life in three acts. Each act is basically the same, and yet all contribute something dramatic to the narrative and the image of the man. All three acts are the moments before a product launch at varying points in his long and winding career, yet it is these launches that define the man, showing him to be the showman, the visionary, and the master controller that he was known to be.
The first is the launch of the Macintosh 128k, the computer that would speak. Here is where we are introduced to Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs, in his greatest role to date. He’s made a strong impact in a few short years, but he personifies Jobs so naturally, so completely that it’s easy to lose sight of him and just accept him as the man. His mannerisms, his way of speaking, that same charisma that he exudes even when he’s being arrogant or impossible, all of it is blended together to create a very complex, very brilliant, and very troubled man.
The second act is at the doomed launch of the NeXT Box, a product Steve Jobs put out a few years after he had been booted out of Apple. The final launch is of the iMac, the computer that accomplished what he had set out to do from the beginning, truly changing the way humans interact with the world via technology in their own homes.
Though there’s a great deal discussed about his visions for the future and the technology that he develops, the true focus is always on him, much as he would like it to be. Set in real-time prior to the launch of all three products, we’re treated to a chaotic behind the scenes look at his life, dealing with the daughter he cares for yet refuses to accept as his own, the mishaps of any product launch, and his personal battles with those around him.
The movie coasts along on Sorkin’s impeccable dialogue, with Seth Rogan as Steve Wozniak, Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, and in a standout performance, Jeff Daniels as John Sculley, the former CEO of Apple who played a role in Steve Jobs being kicked out of the company he helped to create.
Danny Boyle adds an incredible liveliness to the film, keeping things moving and intense despite it being completely driven by dialogue. He visualizes the scenes in surprising and engaging ways, so subtly woven in that you may not notice how stylish it truly is. There’s an incredible scene during the second launch where Jobs and Sculley argue about his being kicked out of Apple, and it’s an argument that’s been going on for years. To illustrate this, Boyle splices two scenes together, one a flashback where the fighting began, the other the real-time present. They blend seamlessly into one long argument that feels the weight of years and the heartbreak of a battered friendship.
It’s this kind of perfect vision of Sorkin’s script that make the film seem criminally short, when it in fact runs about 122 minutes. There so much to absorb and appreciate from the story, all of it hinging on the fascinating man that was Steve Jobs. His relationship with his daughter becomes the emotional center of the film, the development of it is crucial to all three acts, and it only adds layers to way he comes across as a person. He’s undoubtedly brilliant, the kind of eccentric visionary that we all assumed him to be, and yet he’s also an arrogant, self-centered, and aggressively controlling man, unable to recognize or appreciate the good that might have come from anyone other than himself.
There’s no denying the impact of Steve Jobs on our society and the world. Innovation through technology comes fast and is constantly in development, yet one of the key and most influential figures remains the man who was the face of Apple. There have been other biopics about him, but none were made with such skill and poignancy as this.