“You ask me if I have a God complex,” Dr. Jed Hill (Alec Baldwin) asks in while being deposed in the 1993 film Malice. “Let me tell you something… I AM God.”
While Steve Jobs never uttered those exact words about himself, it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility that he at least thought them– especially if we’re to believe the characterization of the Apple co-founder in director Danny Boyle’s new biopic.
Steve Jobs arrives as an immaculately crafted look at the man behind the technology that half of all U.S. households use. And though it may not be an entirely flattering portrait (to say the least), it still feels entirely honest, and the resulting film is nothing less than a monument to moviemaking. It’s a riveting look inside the psyche of one of recent history’s most influential people, and with Boyle’s intricate and innovative direction, Aaron Sorkin’s whip-smart script, and a career-best performance by Michael Fassbender in the title role, Steve Jobs is easily the leader in the clubhouse as Hollywood heads into awards season.
Sorkin, working from Walter Isaacson’s award-winning biography of Jobs, wisely chose to split the screenplay into three forty-minute chunks, each centered on a specific, watershed moment in Jobs’ timeline: the 1984 launch of the Macintosh, the 1988 launch of his disastrous NeXTcube, and the 1998 launch of the iMac. Boyle ingeniously gives each segment its own feel, shooting them, respectively, on 16mm film, 35mm film, and digital to not only show the passage of time but technology as well.
Steve Jobs is little more than a series of razor-sharp dialogues between Jobs and a key person in his life, whether it’s Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), former Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), colleague Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), or Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) the mother of Jobs’ disavowed child. We never see any of the product development, we never get a prolonged look Jobs’ origins, and we never hear the words iPod or iPhone even mentioned. This is not, by any means, your average biopic, and that’s a big reason why Steve Jobs is so memorable.
Anchored by Fassbender’s intense and unyielding performance, the film is a character study, pure and simple, but Sorkin’s script and Boyle’s direction elevate it to a level virtually unseen before. Just as Sorkin’s take on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network gave us a clear picture of genius-as-antihero, Steve Jobs does the same. But by forgoing all the added noise of boring product work and other superfluous junk, Sorkin instead allows us to just focus on the man. And as complex and acerbic as Jobs was, that’s more than enough to make the film among the most enthralling of the year.
Genius or jerk (or both), the guy was nonetheless a god among men, and Steve Jobs brilliantly gives him his due.