It is not at all rare to see a biopic focused on a tortured genius arrive in theaters during the later months of the year for awards consideration. This is why Steve Jobs easily succeeds, as the Danny Boyle-directed film follows an unconventional structure, setting it apart from the pack. As a result, Aaron Sorkin‘s brilliant script has evolved into one of the most electrifying films of the year. Sadly, it bombed in theaters, but you can now get your hands on this solid Blu-ray package.
Rather than picking up with Steve Jobs at a young age or providing a familiar framing device set towards the end of his life, Steve Jobs is divided into three distinct parts. The ingenious decision was made to set the film backstage at three notable product launches, starting in 1984 and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac. During each section, Jobs (Michael Fassbender) deals with several individuals who factor heavily into his life.
This structure is not in place to suggest these conversations actually happened and that is part of the genius of Sorkin’s screenplay. There is theatricality to seeing Jobs deal with the same particular individuals during key moments in his life. It serves as a way to see Jobs dealing with his inner demons. Real people in his life come to speak their mind all to the delight of audiences getting to hear Sorkin-style dialogue being traded back and forth.
All of this is served well by Boyle, who brings his trademark kinetic visual style to a film featuring no action scenes, but is still more thrilling than many action movies. One clear example is a highlight of the film seen during the second act, as Jobs and former Apple CEO John Scully (an award-worthy Jeff Daniels) verbally spar. The sharp dialogue combined with the quick editing that incorporates flashbacks is the kind of dynamic material that makes this film so exciting to watch.
Along with the filmmakers, the cast is tremendous. Fassbender commands this film with a performance that is given far more life thanks to how this man acts, rather than focusing on how much he looks like the real Jobs. Kate Winslet is featured as Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ closest ally and she brings all that is needed to face off against the man while keeping up a playful energy. The same can be said for Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak and Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, who may not present an intimidating challenge for Jobs, but do enough to bring out the man’s worst qualities.
Not holding back what kind of man Jobs was is part of the film’s charm, as you are presented with a figure who clearly has a vision, but stands on the backs of others to fully realize it. While a bit easy, the film manages to balance this with a continual reminder of Jobs’ daughter Lisa (played at her oldest by Perla Haney-Jardine). Lisa eventually provides the film with a way to finish, but her various interactions with her father are as impressive as watching Jobs speak with the higher-ups he sees as beneath him.
Jobs is not the easiest person to interact with, but Sorkin and Fassbender both find ways to keep this man fascinating to watch. Combined with what Boyle brings to the table, it is truly amazing to see a film like this that is so exciting. Steve Jobs is a character drama, but the efforts of everyone involved make the film far more compelling than traditional biopics. Like other films that merely look at a few slices of one important figure’s life, Steve Jobs finds the right focus and completely nails the execution.
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Clarity/Detail: Even with three distinct video sources (16mm, 35mm and digital), this Blu-ray comes out looking fantastic, thanks to a terrific transfer that finds the best way to present all the fine details seen in each segment of the film. There is obviously grain and a grittier look to be found at the beginning of the film, compared to the crisp and clean final act, but everything always stays sharp and true.
Depth: The focus on walking and talking means we get to see a lot of great depth based on the placement of characters in various scenes.
Black Levels: The backstage antics lead to a lot of great scenes set in darkness. As a result, looking at the black levels, you can see all the deep, inky black levels that do well for the film.
Color Reproduction: Colors are balanced and appear very well when they emerge from the fairly muted film.
Flesh Tones: Character textures do a great job of showing the detail in the faces we see throughout.
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DVS 2.0, Spanish and French DTS Digital Surround 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Dynamics: While we get some outside flashes based on Danny Boyle’s style, this is a dialogue-heavy film and the lossless soundtrack excels at bringing out all that we hear. The fine Michael Pemberton score is also heard clearly as well and it only adds to this fantastic audio track.
Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel gets some time to shine during scenes involving a larger crowd and some moments with the score.
Surround Sound Presentation: This audio track is mostly center-focused, but that doesn’t stop the sound from coming across well in the way it handles the mix and bringing a rounded quality to the channels as a whole concerning other sound featured here.
Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone speaks and they are all clearly heard.
Given all the docs and books out there about Steve Jobs already, it is not surprising to not see too much supplemental material focused on the man himself. That said, two terrific commentaries and a solid making-of make up for a seemingly slim set of extras.
Inside Jobs: The Making of Steve Jobs (HD, 44:11) – A three-part look at the making of the film, which goes over the work done by Michael Fassbender, the other characters in the story and the production process.
Audio Commentary with Director Danny Boyle – Boyle is great commentator who does a fine job speaking about a film he is quite proud of.
Audio Commentary with Writer Aaron Sorkin and Editor Elliot Graham – This track is a fantastic look at the process of building a film like this and how to streamline and construct the best film possible. Lots of information found in both of these commentaries.
DVD Copy of the Film
Digital Copy of the Film – iTunes and UltraViolet
Steve Jobs is a film that deserved so much more than it received during its theatrical run. Perhaps the timing was just off, but regardless of how much money it made, the film is great and can hopefully find new life on Blu-ray. The presentation is fantastic, with a fine handle on both the audio and video quality. You also get all you need to know about the film thanks to two great commentary tracks. Seek this film out.