A glimpse into the man behind the machine, the i behind the Mac
If you are one of the billion people who owns a smartphone, it’s likely you know who Steve Jobs is. Director Danny Boyle (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later…) makes sure of that as the film picks you up and drops you right into the life of Jobs. Divided into distinct acts and ending with the 1998 revealing of the iconic iMac, Steve Jobs revolves around three separate product launches that contributed to the revolutionary technology that changed the twentieth century. The director pulls back the curtains, unveiling the personal life behind the tech giant and shedding light onto the darker side of Jobs, giving new meaning to “mad scientist” and showing that when it comes to visionary genius, there’s a high price to be paid. All the while, Boyle never allows the technology to overshadow the man behind the machine, the i behind the Mac.
If Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is the conductor of the orchestra, then fellow Apple co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak (Seth Rogen) is his best musician. Without Woz, the rest of the band and the success of their Apple II computer, Apple may not be where it is today. With this in mind, what does Woz want? It’s simple: for him and his team to be credited for their contribution to history. Jobs, wanting to stay known as the genius behind the operation, not only refuses to give credit to Woz, but also adds insult to injury by patronizing the tender-hearted Woz. Strengthening the case that he’s an indecent human being, the affluent Jobs lets his ex-lover Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterson) live on welfare and denies that he is the father of his 5-year-old daughter, Lisa (Makenzie Moss). This is the darker side of Jobs. This is the side that is only seen offstage to his unacknowledged staff and peers and his estranged family.
The only one who can talk the slightest bit of sense into Jobs is his marketing chief Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet). As expected, Winslet gives yet another exceptional performance, reminding audiences why her acting prowess remains the envy of Hollywood. However, the surprise of the film is Seth Rogen. Pulling his own weight and then some, an exceptional Rogen breaks out of his usual typecast role and unleashes an outstanding Oscar-worthy performance. Playing the role of Wozniak with grit and poise, Rogen puts together easily the best performance of his career.
But despite Rogen’s excellent acting, all lights are on Michael Fassbender — and rightfully so. Gracefully walking the tightrope between brilliance and madness, Fassbender is picture-perfect and embodies the very essence of the Silicon Valley narcissist. Fassbender is as heartless as he is manipulative, and it’s evident that his total commitment to the personification of Jobs is what truly brings this character to life. It’s almost as if you’re in the same room as Jobs, being berated along with the rest of the Apple employees, and this gives audiences a disturbing uneasiness.
As stellar as the acting may be, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The Social Network, Moneyball) is the true mastermind behind the scenes and ultimately it’s his transcendent screenplay that allows these stars to shine. Sorkin outdoes himself again, creating a script that surpasses his Oscar-winning screenplay for The Social Network, and raising the bar for screenwriters everywhere. Through his carefully crafted words, Sorkin not only evokes an unnerving intensity with his well-written confrontations, but also paints a villainous picture of the egotistical perfectionist that is Steve Jobs. Yet Sorkin elegantly includes just enough black comedy and glimpses of Jobs’ humanity, especially towards the end, to ensure that the screenplay avoids being the simple defaming of one of tech’s revolutionaries.
Director Boyle’s beautifully shot scenes combined with an unrivaled cast and Sorkin’s incredible screenplay is more than enough to make Steve Jobs a modern day classic. An absolute pleasure to watch on the big screen, Steve Jobs reminds us that there is beauty behind the madness and that even a great man can struggle to be a good man. Nevertheless, the legacy and impact of Steve Jobs will resonate with us past the motion picture and throughout our daily lives. After all, you only need to look down at your handheld device to be reminded of it.