Steve Jobs, an adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s book of the same name, is a uniquely structured biopic. Although it is depressing, the film provides viewers with a distilled snapshot of Steve Jobs’ visionary and egotistical traits. It features strong acting and technicality, elements that are to be appreciated by audiences.
The story takes place moments before the unveiling of the Apple Mactintosh, NeXT Computer, and iMac and depicts Jobs and his associates at three very distinct times in their lives. However, the film does not merely center on Jobs’ technical ideas. A large portion of the often heated conversations pertain to Jobs’ relationship with his family and co-workers. As such, Jobs is most often portrayed in a negative light.
In terms of pacing, Steve Jobs is composed as a triptych, showing three cross-sections of Jobs’ life. Before seeing the film, I was wary of this structure. I was concerned that showcasing a few moments before three conferences – held years apart – would be injurious to the pace and result in a lack of cohesion. It was a relief when my concerns did not come to fruition. Fortunately, some expository interstitials provide deeper context for viewers.
The effects of the tense conversations among the interconnected characters do – to some extent – carry over from conference to conference. This offers a sense of continuity and shows character growth, or the lack thereof; this movie presents Jobs as a conceited person. Although it may be slower than some would like, there are hints of his maturation as a human outside of the technological realm. Conversely, the other characters’ growth is more evident.
Similarly, Steve Jobs’ tone is depressing. The manner in which Jobs humiliates co-workers and wantonly displays his hot-headed temper paints a critical picture of the man. Jobs’ denial and narcissism regarding his family is shocking. More often than not, the excitement surrounding the various product shows is overshadowed by his hubristic, pugnacious qualities. As mentioned above, there are some glimmers of hope and improvement, but they are fleeting.
The performances are quite notable. Michael Fassbender’s depiction of the eponymous, complicated character is impressive. He does a great job absorbing and projecting the role and showing Jobs to be an awkward, difficult human. The way in which he delivers the barbs of dialogue are well done, albeit tyrannical.
Kate Winslet’s Joanna Hoffman is great. Yet there were a few moments in the first act where Hoffman’s accent was imperceptible, whereas it was more distinct in the second and third acts. The way in which Winslet conveys her dialogue alongside Fassbender, especially when Hoffman is standing up to Jobs, is noteworthy.
Seth Rogan, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Perla Haney-Jardine’s Steve Wozniak, John Sculley, Andy Hertzfeld, and Lisa Brennan, respectively, provide sound supporting performances. The exchanges their characters have with Jobs serve as specific cases of Jobs’ imperious demeanor. They attempt to urge Jobs to change his behavior, mindset, and treatment of others, but their appeals are often met with undesired results. I admired these four characters the most.
In general, Steve Jobs’ the cinematography is strong. The close-ups effortlessly convey the characters’ emotions. In one of the more memorable sequences, a Dutch tilt shot, combined with shadows and warm lighting, brilliantly captured the scene’s serious, tense ambiance. However, some creative shots, particularly over-the-shoulder-styled shots at varying levels, were overused.
The production design and music are impressive. The sets and music look and sound wonderful and often reflect the technological focus of the impending conferences. The set design mixes well with the cinematography and the electronic and orchestral compositions are excellent additions to the film.
Danny Boyle’s direction of Steve Jobs is strong. The way in which he is able to convincingly convey the disparate-yet-connected triptych is commendable. Other métiers of Boyle’s include the performances and technicality. Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet received Academy Award nominations for Actor in a Leading Role and Actress in a Supporting Role, respectively. Overall, the movie’s highlights are in its formidable presentation and production value.
In the end, Steve Jobs is deeply paradoxical film. The story and its main character are insufferable while its cinematic technicality is impressive. Despite a few glimpses of growth, Jobs’ difficult character traits and horrible treatment of others define the movie. If you are interested in learning more about Steve Jobs, especially in a rare filmic structure, or if you enjoy artistic technicality, you may like Steve Jobs. I will likely rewatch or reference certain scenes going forward, but it is not a movie I see myself watching more than once. I will, however, be revisiting its soundtrack.
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Production: Universal Pictures; Legendary Entertainment; Scott Rudin Productions; The Mark Gordon Company; Entertainment 360; Decibel Films; Cloud Eight Films; Digital Image Associates
Director: Danny Boyle
Producer: Danny Boyle; Guymon Casady; Christian Colson; Mark Gordon; Scott Rudin
Screenwriter: Aaron Sorkin (screenplay); Walter Isaacson (book)
Director of Photography: Alwin H. Küchler
Editor: Elliot Graham
Art Direction: Peter Borck
Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
Music: Daniel Pemberton
Budget: ca. $30,000,000
Release Date: October 23, 2015 (USA)
Cinematographic Process: ARRIRAW; Digital Intermediate; Redcode RAW; Super 16; Super 35
Laboratory: FotoKem Laboratory; Technicolor
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Copyright Holder: Universal Studios; Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC
Cast: Michael Fassbender; Kate Winslet; Seth Rogen; Jeff Daniels; Michael Stuhlbarg; Katherine Waterston; Perla Haney-Jardine; Ripley Sobo; Makenzie Moss; Sarah Snook; John Ortiz; Adam Shapiro; John Steen; Stan Roth; Mihran Slougian
- - - - - - -
Rating: R; Descriptors: Some language.
Running Time: 2 hours and 2 minutes (122 mins.)
 Despite the existence of evidence indicating this may be true, the debate regarding whether or not this portrayal is accurate falls outside the scope of this review. Nevertheless, for the sake of concision, this review reflects Jobs’ behavior as shown in the film.