Review: Steve Jobs (2015)

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Steve Jobs is a fascinating and magnetic character study of the renowned American inventor and technological entrepreneur. It succeeds in crafting a structure that feels immediate and inherently dramatic. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin conceives of each act as a build up to a launch of a new product, which results in a fourteen-year focus of Jobs’ life. The outcome is seemingly small moments that feel like momentary ripples but in actuality have repercussions in the final act. The best example of this is a little moment where Steve Jobs (Micheal Fassbender) is complaining about his coverage in Time magazine in the first act.

At first, it feels like a trivial moment. However, in the third act, the moment comes back to haunt him as the marketing executive for Apple and Jobs’ most trusted friend, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) explains to him the actual implications of that magazine coverage for Jobs and the product he was promoting at the time. This moment also speaks to a recurring point that happens throughout the film, which is Jobs’ delusions that are unraveled one by one throughout the course of the final act.

As the co-founder of Apple, Micheal Fassbender delivers his best performance to date. In the early scenes, he plays the egomaniacal Jobs with a sense of animalistic savagery, which ultimately makes him unsettling and unpredictable in his behaviour. Sorkin writes Jobs as a dangerous person whose terrifying tendencies are contained within the framework of innovation and marketing. Some of the close-ups in the first act of Jobs, Fassbender looks frighteningly demonic and unhinged.

However, Fassbender casts the most substantial impression in the third act when Jobs is unveiling the iMac G3. In this act, Fassbender’s previous viciousness is now replaced with a deep seeded regret and sense of potent woundedness. These moments are best showcased in a scene when Jobs is trying to calm himself down by going through a speech for his product launch. However, he keeps seeing momentary flashes of his daughter when she was five years old. Here Fassbender plays Jobs like someone who is burdened by his actions, despite the success he has achieved.

Additionally, Fassbender in this acts has a great calm casualness which was an enduring characteristic of Steve Jobs when presenting Apple’s new products. The previously mentioned isolated scene brings to light an interesting criticism that had been leveled at the picture, which film critic Josh Larsen articulated in his review when he stated that the film is “A screenplay in a movie’s clothing, Steve Jobs is undeniably an Aaron Sorkin film.”

Undoubtedly, Steve Jobs could have contained more sequences that are indicative of Danny Boyle’s directorial style. However, the film has enough cinematic flourishes that prevent it from being stagey. Boyle showcases sweeping audience shots that at once feel realistic in showing the enthusiasm of the waiting crowd and, on the other hand, they feel like lucid visual representations of Jobs’ mindset. In fact, the strongest cinematic moments of Steve Jobs is when it is working in this latter framework, which is illustrating ideas within Jobs’ mindscape.

For example, in an intimate confrontation scene between Jobs and Hoffman, he goes at length about Skylab, which was an unmanned data gathering satellite for NASA. While Jobs discuss what this means for his current strategy, Boyle shows us some real life footage of that incident which plays out on the wall that Jobs has he back to in the shot. The harmony between words and images in this moment is sublime.

The scene ends with Hoffman and Jobs in the midst of a relieved embrace. The moment showcases that the film contains some of Boyle’s trademark raw dramatic heft and his surreal, dreamlike images that blend effortlessly with Sorkin’s screenplay.

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About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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