Review by Mark Schwab
October 17th, 2015
I remember my first experience with an Apple computer. It was sometime around 1982 and as a 7th-grader sitting in front of an Apple II Plus, I programmed some kind of code into making a Van Halen logo flash across the screen. Yes, my imagination had been captured and now - 33 years later - I am composing this review on an iMac. Apple is stronger than ever today as a force of technological nature. It is one of the men behind that force who Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin tackle in the just-released biopic STEVE JOBS.
Suposedly using Walter Issacson's book as the basis (it is credited at the beginning), Aaron Sorkin tells Jobs' story through a 3-act structure based around three opening product launches; the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXt cube in 1988 and the iMac in 1998. On paper, the action mostly takes place with Steve Jobs rushing from room to room arguing with people (i.e. "walk-and-talks") similar to Sorkin's other major television hit THE WEST WING. Sorkin mashes together events, plays fast and loose with some facts and events and in Michael Fassbender have cast a guy who really looks nothing like the real Steve Jobs (ok, with the greying hair and turtleneck in the 1998 sequence he takes on some of Jobs' patina). Sorkin and director Danny Boyle (the Oscar winner for Slumdog Millionaire) should have fallen flat on their keyboards.
Not so. Almost all of it works splendidly and for a most surprising reason.
In the performances alone, this film bristles with energy. Fassbender plays Jobs like a man truly possessed simultaneously by demons and inspiration in equal parts. At times he is a monster regarding his estranged daughter and her mother but he is never less than compelling and completely immersed in the part. Is this exactly how Jobs behaved and treated people in these real life situations? Probably not but it doesn't matter when the acting and dialogue are this good. True to life or not, Fassbender's Steven Jobs is a riveting character. In particular is one scene in the middle of the 1988 NeXt cube sequence that really stands out where Jobs and former Apple CEO John Scully (a very good Jeff Daniels of Sorkin's Newsroom) decide to air out their dirty laundry. This scene is one of the finest examples of writing, acting, direction and editing that I've seen in years. It comes together so perfectly that my jaw dropped. It was pure filmmaking excellence only rarely glimpsed these days from the Hollywood Machine.
STEVE JOBS is also one of the best-paced films you will see for years to come. It's technically 2 hours and 2 minutes but I was almost bewildered when we reached 1998's "act three" in what seemed like no time at all had passed. This film moves at a lightening pace with Danny Boyle finding the perfect way to keep pace with Sorkin's whipsmart dialogue.
In fact, reflecting back on it now, Boyle pulls off a small miracle with STEVE JOBS. Even though it profiles an almost mythic figure who created products which dominate our culture, this is actually not a "commercial" - style film in the way we understand that term. Boyle and Sorkin have defied all convections of traditional biographical storytelling and made something truly artistic and risky. And it is never anything less than totally absorbing from start to finish.
You might be unsure exactly how all the historical Apple slices fit together in the end, but you will be swept up in the excellent operating
system that is STEVE JOBS.