Like the shiny white minimalism epitomizing the success of Apple Inc. the film “Steve Jobs” is traversed by highly intense electricity, creating a breathtaking atmosphere. Director Danny Boyle creates a real locomotive of a movie, balancing tense, personal dialogue with a high-energy take on Apple Inc.’s meteoric rise to the top of the tech pyramid. Organized like a three-act play, the film focuses on three cardinal events — the 1984 Apple Macintosh launch, the 1988 Black Cube launch by NeXT and the Apple iMac launch in 1998 — which launch the myth of Steve Jobs, subtly yet obsessively portrayed by Michael Fassbender.
The first act, reminiscent of the futuristic aura of the 1984 Macintosh advertisements, precedes Steve Jobs’ ousting from the company he built. The second act seals the failure of Jobs’ short-lived Black Cube project, after which he returns as Apple’s CEO. Finally comes the launch of the iMac, what one Apple’s founding members Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) predicts to be the “fastest-selling computer in history.”
The film follows an unusual structure, retracing the minutes before three separate launch events for three products, each revolutionary, albeit in its own way.
The film’s montage of perspectives presents an interesting take on realtime that could not be any more direct thanks to Hoffman’s frequent announcements to the waiting public on exactly how much time remains until each launch. “Steve Jobs” progresses as quickly and chaotically as the events it portrays, taking us along with it.
The film is built on series of successive dialogues, characteristic of writer Aaron Sorkin’s previous works, interrupted by a few sudden changes of framing perspective and some sharp camera angles, such as one that persistently focuses on half of Fassbender’s face.
The director insists on these spectacular jump-cut effects, especially during a heated conversation between Jobs and John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). The camera hops at an increasing speed from a close-up of Jobs’ face to rapid shots of a deserted hallway with packed chairs to the flashback scene of the Apple board meeting that cemented Job’s firing in 1988. The arrangement of such scenes, accompanied by an explosive crescendo of music, effectively conveys the frenzy of the moment. The interplay between delicately chosen music and time is unique.
The spectator is smoothly introduced to the story and then gradually absorbed by the real-life course of time. It is difficult to follow which cuts are jumps to new scenes and which are simply changes in perspective. Improving film resolution signal the advance of time. Immersed in this amazingly ingenious structure, even the keenest spectator cannot easily realize and accept the end of the production, which is presented totally unexpectedly.
“Steve Jobs” is a sophisticated experiment whose brilliant pattern almost camouflages the intricate dilemmas of its foundation. Indeed, this self-aggrandizing Legendary Pictures’ production gravitates around the study of a complex character. The main theme of the film is the Apple hero’s difficult relationships with the other six main figures in his professional and personal lives: his work dynamic with Joanna, whose voice alone is able to penetrate the armored plate Jobs wears in his interpersonal interactions; the profound yet antagonistic lifelong collaboration with Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen); the admiration mixed with resentment toward ambitious Sculley; the unilateral rivalry with Apple team member Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg); the visceral, emotional disconnect with his irresponsible girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston); and, most significantly, the fluctuating attitude toward his estranged daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Perla Haney-Jardine).
The focus on Jobs’ life as a neglectful father provides an original, perhaps creatively distorted, picture of the man. At first refusing to acknowledge his child, even creating an algorithm to falsify his paternity, this control maniac falls prey to the binding link that connects him to his daughter Lisa. The complex emotions affecting Jobs in such delicate moments of his life are effectively channeled through Fassbender’s prodigious performance. Beyond physical resemblance, this stellar cast fully delivers the essential elements of today’s perceptions of the individuals in question, especially Michael Fassbender through his blunt expressions and vivid outbursts of emotion.
Certainly, “Steve Jobs” is an artistic creation, but it is nevertheless an intensely emotional spectacle offering colorful insight into the life of one of the leaders of modern technology.
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.