Steve Jobs was a man who aspired to “think different”; his vision was the one nobody had thought of. He was a man who foresaw and shaped the digitised world we live in today. But what did he actually do? What was his drive? And who was the man behind the machine?
Danny Boyle’s new movie, simply titled Steve Jobs, is not the first movie to attempt to answer these questions. These questions are much larger than any one movie could possibly answer adequately. Jobs was a man of great complexity in all areas of his life, and this movie shows us that complexity in astounding detail. Rather than adopting the structure of a biopic, this movie thinks differently and instead depicts three distinct scenes taking place backstage before three keynote speeches. It does not depict the rise of Apple or even the post-iPod Apple, because it knows that a two-hour piece of cinema is not enough to do so effectively. This approach works because it uses these three moments as a vessel to display a vertical slice of the man; it’s focused and feels complete.
Jobs’ passion was relentless, and so is this movie. Every scene progresses very quickly, the soundtrack enforcing its high energy. There’s a sense of urgency to it all – in fact, one problem with the movie is that there aren’t enough moments where we can relax. But it’s relentlessly entertaining. It exists in the moment, and we must exist in the moment to enjoy it. We see Jobs drive his partners and employees mercilessly, which is fascinating to watch, as this allows us to see the full-extent of Jobs’ darker side. Like the technology he created, everything is progressing forward, and intelligent use of quick cutbacks to earlier events in his life help to elaborate on his progression while also giving us a good amount of his backstory. The movie is extremely dialogue-heavy, but avoids telling without showing. We aren’t told who Jobs was, we see who he was.
It all feels incredibly genuine. This is one of those movies where one forgets that these are actors reading lines. The screenplay feels completely natural, as do the performances. Michael Fassbender might not look like Jobs as much as Ashton Kutcher did in Jobs, but he captures the essence of Jobs more. When we look at the action on the screen we believe what we see; Michael Fassbender’s performance has even been praised highly by Apple co-founder Steve Woznaik, who has said that he felt like his performance was “the real Steve Jobs”.
Director Danny Boyle, known for his striking imagery in his movies, is on top form in Steve Jobs. There are several visuals that really delve into the psyche of the media-mogul; we are enticed to look into the eyes of this troubled man and understand him. The use of extreme close-ups, extended shots, and tracking shots paint an intimate portrait of this complex man. We see his relentless focus, his dominance, his wit, but also his emotional vulnerabilities. Throughout the film the cinematography changes rather drastically as the movie progresses. Each act was shot with a different camera: 16mm, then 35mm, then digital, and the effect is profound. The image goes from being grainy and de-saturated to very clean and vivid. This reflects the changes Jobs goes through as he matures throughout the movie as well as the ways in which technology has changed the world. It encapsulates his journey.
Steve Jobs is a great movie, making its disappointing commercial performance a real shame. It works because it takes a complicated topic and condenses it to something simple, elegant and easy to understand – much like Jobs’ approach to creating products. With that said, there are certainly more stories to tell of Jobs and the people around him. What about the friendship/rivalry between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates? What about his final years? What about the formation of Pixar? There’s more to Steve Jobs than one movie, but this movie does reveal a lot. As he always said, “there’s just one more thing…”.
Is it worth watching?
+ Brilliant performances
+ Sharply scripted
– Not enough quiet breaks
An intensely paced piece of cinema that paints a detailed portrait of a man who took the world into the 21st century.
Watch the trailer for Steve Jobs
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