Steve Jobs is a daring film. It’s a biopic that doesn’t care about historical accuracy. Playing fast and loose with the facts, director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin know there isn’t any way to get inside the head of one of the greatest and most enigmatic innovators of the last 50 years. At best, they can only try and recapture his essence, and what it was like to be around him.
Set during the launch of three different products that came to define Jobs professionally, the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT box in 1988 and the iMax in 1998, Steve Jobs looks at the effect his singular desire to change the world ruins every aspect of his personal life. Masterfully played by Michael Fassbender, the genius of Jobs shines through at every turn, but the human cost of his ambition comes to the forefront at these product launches, moments when he should be reveling in professional success. It’s not accurate (these people would have to be awfully selfish to hijack not one, but three product launches with their personal issues), but the film’s unique narrative structure brilliantly captures the clash of the personal and professional.
Steve Jobs is very much a companion piece to Sorkin’s The Social Network. Both were written by Sorkin and feature his trademark dialogue, but where The Social Network was dark and gloomy, Steve Jobs is light and hopeful. That’s not to say Steve Jobs isn’t dark and gloomy. It very much is. Steve Jobs is not a nice guy, and the film makes no apologies for it. The movie’s lighter tone — when compared to The Social Network — is entirely thanks to director Danny Boyle.
Watching Boyle work within the confines of a Sorkin script, especially one that only takes place in three locations, is fascinating. Steve Jobs was originally going to be directed by The Social Network‘s David Fincher, and the script doesn’t exactly scream, “A Danny Boyle film.” The Social Network was cold and calculating, and the Steve Jobs script is the same in tone. Boyle is a frantic, energetic director, thriving on creativity and thinking outside of the box. He’s the man who directed James Franco to an Oscar nomination in 127 Hours. Boyle’s trademark style comes to light in certain parts, but his presence makes Steve Jobs pulse with life and emotion, almost too much at times, something The Social Network lacked.
Steve Jobs will never escape comparisons to The Social Network. The films are just too closely related to avoid that kind of chatter — even this review has pretty much been a comparison. Steve Jobs will rack up plenty of awards and nominations this winter, but, much like The Social Network, it won’t clean up when it matters most — the Oscars.