Danny Boyle's 'Steve Jobs' - A REVIEW

"Set backstage at three iconic product launches and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac, Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter.

Steve Jobs is directed by Academy Award® winner Danny Boyle and written by Academy Award® winner Aaron Sorkin, working from Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography of the Apple founder. The producers are Mark Gordon, Guymon Casady of Film 360, Scott Rudin, Boyle and Academy Award®winner Christian Colson.

Michael Fassbender plays Steve Jobs, the pioneering founder of Apple, with Academy Award®-winning actress Kate Winslet starring as Joanna Hoffman, former marketing chief of Macintosh. Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple, is played by Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels stars as former Apple CEO John Sculley. The film also stars Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan, Jobs’ ex-girlfriend, and Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, one of the original members of the Apple Macintosh development team."

After the 1 theater play, 3 feature films, 3 graphic novels, 9 documentaries, 14 books and a few other sources that probably deserve more mention than I'm ready to offer right now, the world couldn't have been more prepared for Danny Boyle's cinematic take on the iconic Steve Jobs. And while the other 3 feature films couldn't dig into the legendary figure to make any difference, it took a great cinematic team and their extremely unconventional form of storytelling to make a dent.

But first, I must say that this movie might not have been possible without the making of the 2010 biographical drama 'The Social Network' by David Fincher. That movie opened doors to the idea that even the most nerdiest of tech giants are worthy of a profitable storytelling. A key takeaway message from that movie was it's pacing and the award-winning music (by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) that provided the movie with a false sense of an edge-of-the-seat thriller while not actually being one! It must've been some kind of a breakthrough because the moviegoers really seemed to like it - the edgy, up-beat contemporary music and fast pacing of the movie seemed to go well with the retelling of one of the fastest growing industries in our lifetime.

Oscar winner director Danny Boyle might've have kept this in mind before making this movie as you find the similar ingredients in his depiction of Steve Jobs.

The editing (by Elliot Graham) of the movie is key to it's thrilling experience. In 'The Social Network' Fincher had a courtroom drama set up as the 'central spine' for the story to fall back on time and again. Holding on to it, the story of how 'Facebook' was founded and how subsequent events unfolded, were told. In 'Steve Jobs', the backbone was what Jobs was perhaps most well-known for - the iconic Apple product launches. 3 of them, specifically. As we jump from one one product launch to another, we see more and more of Steve Jobs with other recurring characters and find subplots growing more and more in importance. Watch out for the swift cuts between the past and present, as Jobs and former Apple CEO Sculley revisit a tense personal history among them, that involves smug one-liners, tense boardroom backbiting that's hard to follow and some rapid-fire dialogues.

Danny Boyle has once again associated with cinematographer Alwin H. K├╝chler for Steve Jobs, after working together in 'Sunshine' (2007) which is not only the best Danny Boyle movie for me, but also one of my most favorite science fiction films ever (aside 'Children of Men'). I loved the aesthetic use of design and camera work in this movie - something even Jobs would've perhaps approved of if he was still alive. Watch out for the projections on one of the walls in a down-the-corridor tracking long-shot, when Jobs talks about NASA's Skylab project to his confidant and marketing head. Also, watch out for the overhead projections of some Bob Dylan lyrics backstage, that Jobs recites those to Apple CEO John Sculley. I personally loved the use of different cameras to depict shifts in time - grainy 16mm film for 1984, polished 35mm for 1988, and sleek, HD digital for 1998 - that technique, however, is now getting commonly used in many modern classics.

Except perhaps for the long takes, it's interesting to note that Danny Boyle's personal influence is visible only in a few shots. They are much surprisingly muted and respectfully restrained. It almost feels like he let the script take the lead on this one! The 3 key product launches are like the 3 Acts of an elaborate play that would surely redeem itself by the final Act, and that certainly works in favor of what the movie is trying to portray.

A photo posted by @seannung on

The thing that would perhaps leave the moviegoers and critics divided is the typical heavily wordy script by Aaron Sorkin. (But then people loved 'The Social Network' for the same reason, so I might just be wrong on that front). The movie intelligently presumes an enormous amount of prior investment and interest in the cult and history of Apple. And why not? So many movies have been made, so many books have been written and so much has been talked about - so, unless you're living under a rock, surely the exciting history and timeline of Jobs's leaving Apple, his founding of NeXT and the ultimate return to Apple is a legendary tale we're quite familiar with. But while 'The Social Network' required a minimal amount of prior understanding of the subject matter, this movie demands a little higher and that might not go down so well with a lot of us who live in the cave or prefer Android over Apple.

Much like Sorkin's script for 'The Social Network', he again takes excessive liberties in retelling a true story and abuses the boundaries between fact and fiction. This doesn't stand as a true biography as it does not discuss Jobs's entire life and clearly turns a blind eye to other significant elements from his life (like Xerox, cancer and others), but clearly there's no use playing second fiddle to an already overdeveloped script. But in the end, they don't matter much. Because hey! It's cinema! Not a documentary.

Sadly, the film ends on the note of (almost) divine redemption. The final scene should remind you of the photos you love to hate on the calendar - the sun shining beyond dark clouds - delivering almost certainly, a message from The Holy Text. There are some stories that do not demand closures, and while this one certainly wrapped up the dichotomy of Jobs's character with the final few scenes, I personally felt they overdid it. You find yourself coming out of the hall saying, "Hey, he was good man after all!"

Moving on. I need to. The next best thing in 'Steve Jobs' is the acting. While the dialogues at breakneck speed bite into most of the chances, if any, for the actors to show off something on their own, the powerful performances by Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs, Kate Winslet as his confidant and head of marketing Joanna Hoffman, Jeff Daniels as Apple CEO John Sculley and a little-seen Seth Rogen as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak adds genuine credibility to the film. Another great performance to watch out for is Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan, and her 5 year old daughter Lisa Jobs, portrayed by a very talented Makenzie Moss.

But what makes this movie a triumph, is perhaps Steve Jobs himself. A visionary - he's all of it. But again, he's anything but the proverbial 'nice guy'. Cold. Harsh. Manipulative. Genius. Inventor. But asshole? Yeah, perhaps that too. Jobs's most ardent followers - and they are many - would take issues with the movie's unflattering depiction of the tech visionary, as it loosely focuses on his viciously high-headed, single-minded pursuit of dreams. Read it as one form of veiled character assassination or an uncritical judgement being passed on his flinching disinterest in soliciting affection from those near him.

And yet, they are in fact the very group of people who are appeased in the end, and walk out from the movie halls, vindicated.

As a movie, this one excels as a biopic of a prominent tech-figure, as it has been endorsed by none other than Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and one of the few very close to Jobs. That's a rarity, as far as 'official' endorsements go, don't you think?

Reviewed at an Advanced Screening of 'Steve Jobs' at ASLC - Florida State University, Sept. 13, 2015. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 121 MIN. The movie releases worldwide on Oct. 9, 2015.

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