It’s long been established that the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was a controlling, egomaniacal bully. Nonetheless, the man who urged the world to “Think different” and introduced the iMac, the iPod and the iPad was one of the most visionary businessman ever. While the aptly titled Steve Jobs makes it clear that the man changed the world, the film goes out of its way to make it clear that Jobs was a borderline sociopath, lacking empathy and consumed with ambition.
Written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) the film is divided into three parts, each approximating real time. Michael Fassbender stars as Jobs, seen as the clock counts down to one of his signature keynote speech/product launches—the first, Macintosh in 1984, the neXT “black cube” in 1988 and lastly, the desktop Imac in 1998. While Jobs “work wife” and beleaguered head of marketing Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) is by his side the entire time, as Sorkin explores five key relationships in Steve Jobs life both professional and personal: co-creator Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) and engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg). All of this is wrapped around Steve’s relationship with his estranged daughter Lisa.
By picking apart Walter Issacson’s celebrated 2011 biography, Sorkin has highlighted what Winslet’s character calls “blood feuds.” While it’s highly unlikely that Jobs had to confront these major personal issues backstage just hours (or minutes) before a product launch, Sorkin’s approach is unique, creating a tense, abstract portrait of the man. Nonetheless, while there’s a certain intimacy to the whole thing—Jobs knows he’s a bastard, but by the end, one senses he wants be a better father, a better man—even after watching a two-hour movie, I learned little about Jobs’ everyday life. If you’re looking for a rise of Apple type picture, Steve Jobs will undoubtedly disappoint. Other than a few flashbacks, most of the film takes place in dressing rooms hallways and auditoriums.
Nearly all of the other personalities—be it Wozniak or Hertzfeld—dwarf Jobs. His personality overtakes everything. If you were around Jobs, you could become hos punching bag at any time. Marketing executive Joanna Hoffman is the only one who can stand up to him and does a lot to help humanize Steve.
Portrayed as a man who enjoyed belittling others, Michael Fassbender delivers a fine performance as complex mastermind. Kate Winslet is nearly unrecognizable as Joanna Hoffman and sounds as American as apple pie until Jobs mentions Eastern European background, after which her accent gets going. Having done The Newsroom, Jeff Daniels is well versed in delivering Sorkin penned material. He was a fine choice to play CEO John Sculley. Well crafted, Steve Jobs is well worth watching. However, do so with the understanding that it’s derived from a relatively small part of the source material.
Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Universal has provided a fairly impressive transfer despite using three different photographic styles—16mm for the 1984 segment, 35mm for 1988 and digital for 1998. Inevitably, things improved along with the filming technique.16mm reveals some obvious softness and colors appear a bit dull, while the palette itself is muted. However, blacks are surprisingly inky.
The 35mm shots are a clear improvement. Softness appears only on occasion and colors appear fuller and more accurate. Blacks are deep and firm throughout. Low-light shots looked especially impressive.
The digital footage closely resembles the 35mm, though there is a slight uptick in overall image clarity. As with the 35mm segment, colors are accurate and blacks are firm. Overall, while this type of filming style can never deliver perfect video quality, Universal has done a fine hob with the transfer given the circumstances.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio represents this dialogue heavy film quite well. Decidedly low key, dialogue is concise and accurate. Music uses all five channels nicely, as do ambient sounds. This isn’t the kind of sound mix that will blow anyone away, but it isn’t really asked to do any heavy lifting.
English, Spanish and French subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary with Director Danny Boyle: A running, screen specific affair, Boyle provides information on the production, casting process, sets, locations, visual choices and more. While this can be a little bit dry at times, fans of the director will enjoy hearing how he approached various aspects of the film.
- Audio Commentary with Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and Editor Elliot Graham: Sitting together, the two offer a running, screen specific commentary look at how the story and the characters were developed into a script. Sadly, Sorkin offers up little information about his working process. Instead, he mostly interviews Graham, who discusses his career and the careful thought that went into editing Steve Jobs.
- Inside Jobs: The Making of Steve Jobs (HD, 44:11) This extensive featurette includes comments from Boyle, Sorkin, Graham, costume designer Suttirat Larlarb, property master Chris Ubeck, location manager Chris Baugh, director of photography Alwin H. Kuchler, production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, composer Daniel Pemberton, and actors Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Kate Winslet, and Michael Stuhlbarg. We get notes about cast, characters and performances, the screenplay, Boyle’s impact on the production, rehearsals, locations and more.
- DVD Copy of the film.
- Digital HD Copy.
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