TELLURIDE FILM FEST
Telluride 2015: Sorkin & Boyle's 'Steve Jobs' Film is One for the Ages
by Alex Billington
September 6, 2015
This isn't the story of "tech innovator" Steve Jobs that we all know already. It's something else entirely, an incredibly unique and brilliant creation that encapsulates decades of true stories and distills them down into one glorious three-act performance. An opera, or a Shakespearean play. And it's a phenomenal performance, one for the ages. It's a performance filled with an incredible ensemble, not a weak link anywhere, and some of the best dialogue and discussion you'll ever hear. Thanks to Aaron Sorkin, one the finest screenwriters today, who crafts a beautiful script with so much depth in every single sentence. It's almost overwhelming how much there is going on in every exchange, but it is so delightful to experience. This is one for the ages.
Steve Jobs passed away from cancer in 2011, and ever since there have been multiple attempts to tell his story cinematically. We already saw one attempt back in 2013, Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher, and it wasn't very good. This Steve Jobs, directed by Danny Boyle from a screenplay written by Aaron Sorkin, is not so much a biopic as it is a unique concept that attempts to examine Jobs' mind. Or as Boyle calls it, "the sound of his mind." Michael Fassbender stars as Steve Jobs, and he's always confronted by a team of cohorts - Steve Wozniak, played by Seth Rogen; Andy Hertzfeld, played by Michael Stuhlbarg; Joanna Hoffman played by Kate Winslet; and Jobs' handpicked Apple CEO John Sculley, played by Jeff Daniels.
This isn't a retelling of the Steve Jobs story in a conventional way. None of what we actually see in the film happened, as much as you may want to believe it did, and when you break it down that's not really the point. This is Sorkin's creation. Before the big on-stage announcement of three major computers in Steve Jobs' history (the original Macintosh, the NeXT Black Box, and the iMac) he encounters every last "important" person in his life - his friend Steve Wozniak, and co-workers Joanna Hoffman, John Sculley and Andy Hertzfeld. None more important, though, than his estranged daughter Lisa. And in the span of 30 minutes before showtime, he ends up in very intense, very deep conversations with all of them, either questioning his choices or confirming that every decision he's made is correct. Each conversation is just as vivid as the next.
Sorkin's script, through Boyle's lens, makes for such a breathtakingly phenomenal film. This is an example of near perfection, where the medium of cinema is being utilized in every sense - outstanding performances from the entire cast, stunning cinematography by Alwin H. Küchler that adds even more layers to each scene, and dialogue that connects deep within each and every person - and I don't just mean the characters in the film. Thinking about it, I can't find much that I would change, or much that I didn't like or could criticize. The score by Daniel Pemberton was beautiful and added even more. The transitions between the three segments helped contextualize the story and paint the bigger picture. It all worked in perfect harmony.
My biggest concern going in was that Danny Boyle would over-stylize the film (think 127 Hours), but I am happy to report that's not the case at all. In fact, it feels somewhat more traditional than Boyle's previous films, but not in a bad way. He knows exactly what he's doing, he knows exactly the story he's telling, and he focused entirely on that. It makes such a difference because he lets the actors and the script do most of the work, with masterful editing to bring it all together. I was enthralled from start to finish, in awe of every scene and so many compelling, immaculately crafted moments of brilliance. It's up there with The Social Network, and if you find yourself revisiting scenes from that film, you'll be doing the same with Steve Jobs.
There are few times where I feel like a film is truly timeless, representing history and capturing a feeling that isn't connected specifically to the current time or pop culture fads. This is one of those times, this is one of those films. And I'm glad others are recognizing this, too. In my friend Sasha Stone's excellent review on Awards Daily, she explains: "In America we want our heroes to shimmer. We want them to emerge as gods, not monsters… They sometimes emerge as broken people, whose humanity is buried underneath layers of ambition." This is a film that examines the similarities between gods and monsters. It scrutinizes and is yet appreciative of the mind of a genius, even one who was occasionally an asshole, he still changed the world.
Alex's Telluride Rating: 10 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing