Directed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle and written by Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs paints an intimate portrait of the brilliant man.
"I'm indifferent to whether people like me."
That line, uttered by Michael Fassbender portraying the iconic Apple inventor, encompasses the entire theme of Danny Boyle's new biopic about one of computing's most caustic personalities.
Armed with a rat-ta-tat-tat script penned by Aaron Sorkin, 'Steve Jobs' improbably plays out in three separate, but distinct sequences. An entire life of one of America's most notable marketing personalities is surprisingly, but understandably, entirely encapsulated during frantic events unfolding before three separate product release announcements.
These three settings – 1984 (release of the original Mac), 1988 (release of the Black Cube), and 1998 (release of the iMac) – serve as a way to gather important influences (good and bad) in Jobs' life, stir them together with the stresses of releasing new products, and see what unfolds.
Like "Birdman," much of 'Steve Jobs' takes place as the energetic man paces back and forth backstage at release events as he tries to navigate the treacherous worlds of screwed up family dynamics, strained friendships, greedy bureaucrats, and the cutthroat world of technological innovation. The Sorkin walk-and-talk is alive and well, with Fassbender frantically marching around yelling order at his underlings while "work wife" Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) desperately follows mending the bridges Jobs is constantly burning.
Sorkin's script with its rapid dialogue delivery, intense one-line zingers, and machine gun-like cadence, work in tandem with Boyle's visual artistry. Sure, this is a very Sorkin-y film, filled with the writer's most prized literary devices. However, even though it's most assuredly a Sorkin film, and even though we might anticipate a patented walk-and-talk like one anticipates a J.J. Abrams lens flare, there's still definite substance to it. Sorkin crafts a script using his routine tools, but the results are far from mundane.
What stands out is Steve Jobs' seeming inability to emotionally connect with people. It doesn't matter if they're his co-workers, close friends, or even family, he keeps everyone at a distance. He berates people, but is surprised when they're offended. He stubbornly stands up for ideals no one shares, but himself. He's constantly inventing, tapping into the bizarre world of consumer culture. A world he describes succinctly when he quips about the Mac, "They won't know what they're looking at, but they'll know they want it."
Besides his heartbreakingly strained relationship with his daughter Lisa, the best back-and-forth provided by the film is between Jobs and his closest "friend" Steven Wozniak (Seth Rogen). Woz, as he's known, turns up at each release party pleading with Jobs to acknowledge the people who worked on the Apple II. The only product Apple sold in the ‘80s that made any real money. Jobs is inflexible in his unwillingness to mention such an outdated piece of technology. He isn't concerned with the past while he's constantly focused on the future. Woz understands the human aspect behind the inventions whereas Jobs can't see past the inventions themselves.
I'm sure that in later months we'll find out that events weren't portrayed as they actually happened, characters didn't say or do certain things; the same type of stuff that bubbles to the journalistic surface after a biopic premieres. Yet, even considering future squabbles about historical inaccuracies, 'Steve Jobs' remains an electric character study, which is amazingly constructed in such a way that makes it feel unique and inventive.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a two-disc set from Universal. It comes complete with a 50GB Blu-ray and an UltraViolet Digital Copy. Standard keepcase. A slipcover is included.
This is an interesting video presentation to review. Though it is presented in 1080p, director Danny Boyle made a unique visual choice by filming all three acts with distinctly different sources. The film source reflects the time period in which the act is taking place. The first act takes place in 1984 and is filmed with 16mm; the second act from 1988 is filmed with 35mm; the final act in 1998 is filmed digitally.
Suffice it to say these various source materials provide an eclectic visual experience. So, as far as we've come to expect clean looking pristine pictures from Blu-ray, ‘Steve Jobs' doesn't quite live up to that. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. The visuals here reflect exactly what Boyle envisioned. Also, the overall effect is a cinematic visual offering that we don't get much nowadays with digitally filmed pictures. There's a filmic texture to the resulting footage that makes you feel like you're watching cinema of yesteryear.
Grain from the 16mm and 35mm entries looks fantastic. Just like it looked up on the big screen. It gives it that warm movielike feel. The final digitally filmed entry looks great in its own right. It never feels like it's missing anything. Shadows are deep and black. Black areas even look great with the 16mm footage. Colors are muted throughout, but are still wonderfully presented. Clarity is top-notch no matter the source. Close-ups provide detailed views of faces allowing us to take in each miniscule nuance of the performances.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is rather impressive. As is expected with any Sorkin-penned movie, 'Steve Jobs' is constantly moving, which means the sound design is in constant state of flux. That's why it's so crucial for the front and center channels to nail the dialogue clarity and directionality. As characters move around the frame their voices seamlessly follow them. The fluid nature of the sound design is quite pleasing.
The rear channels are active most of the movie since each segment takes place at busy product releases. As Jobs walks the halls talking to various characters, ambient noise of people prepping stages and having discussions in the background are piped through the rear channels with startling precision. The sub-woofer is called to life often, but mostly for the movie's soundtrack. Though when LFE is necessary the audio mix responds with heavy, rolling (or thumping depending on the song) bass.
Even though it's a dialogue-heavy movie, Sorkin's fast-paced scripting allow for a much more immersive sound design than an average dialogue-centric movie. The audio presentation provides just as much impact as the movie's inventive visual design.
Audio Commentaries – There are two separate audio commentaries to digest here. The first is provided by Danny Boyle who is laser-focused on the technical aspects of shooting this type of film. He also mentions deleted scenes that weren't used (which would've made for a nice inclusion in these special features). The second commentary pairs Aaron Sorkin with editor Elliot Graham as the two of them discuss, at length, the way the script and editing blend with one another. How the story is structured, and how the editing process was handled.
Inside 'Jobs': The Making of 'Steve Jobs' (HD, 44 min.) – This is a 3-part feature that provides an in-depth look into how the film was made. The first part covers Fassbender's Oscar-nominated performance, the book of the same name by Walter Isaacson, how the film differs from the book, the script's life and structure, and so on. The second part takes us through the recurring characters Jobs finds himself interacting with throughout the movie – Wozniak, Hoffman, and Sculley. Finally, the third part is about all the technical film stuff, on-site locations, and what it was like shooting the film.
'Steve Jobs' is a kinetically charged biopic which doesn't feel the need to adhere to the clichés of biopics. The way it's structured gives the story an energy that a cradle-to-grave story might not have. The performances are quite amazing, and Boyle's direction is a perfect pairing for Sorkin's rapid-fire scripting. With great audio, visuals, and special features, 'Steve Jobs' is recommended.