Take the subway, attend a rock concert, catch a flight to anywhere in the world now and you’ll be certain to see the ghost of Steve Jobs in the glowing screens of the iPhones and MacBooks the world can no longer take their eyes off.
From his modest start in a California garage in the 1970s to his latter days as the head of the most successful company in the world, Jobs' change-the-world story has been crying out for the big screen and this Friday, October 9, it will finally happen.
In his virtuoso performance as the tech giant, Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender appears in every scene of "Steve Jobs," director Danny Boyle’s breakneck tour though his famous subject’s life.
It’s the knock-it-out-of-the-park performance that Fassbender has been leading toward since he first came to the world’s attention playing Irish Republican hunger striker Bobby Sands in "Hunger."
Fassbender tackles the role with so much confidence and energy that the film’s two-hour run-time quickly races by. If stepping into the shoes of a world-changing giant is an intimidating prospect, you won’t see any evidence of it here.
“He believed he could change the universe, and he did,” Fassbender told the audience at the New York Film Festival screening of the film last weekend. He’ll be looking to change the world himself this winter between his appearance in this and the follow up "Macbeth" in December.
Even his stunning Swedish ex-girlfriend Alicia Vikander, 27, conceded it’s his year by turning up unannounced at the special New York Film Festival screening this week, possibly surprising Fassbender himself (rumors suggest they spilt up weeks ago).
However his love life is going, there’s no question that Fassbender’s professional life is thriving. It’s common now to hear directors and actors clamor to cast or work with him in every genre from drama to action to adventure.
"Steve Jobs" is certainly not a wholly flattering portrait by any means, but it’s not the sour portrait of a monomaniacal visionary that many feared either. Nevertheless, some of those who knew Jobs well have already run to the press to denounce the treatment of its legendary subject.
Laurene Powell Jobs, his widow, is an example of the type of critic that doesn’t want to hear a word uttered against her late husband in public or private. Powell Jobs says the new film plays down his accomplishments too much and portrays him as cruel and inhumane.
She went further and even made efforts to kill the film while it was in production, lobbying each company that developed the script or began work until she finally hit a wall with Universal Pictures, which will release the $33.5 million production on Friday.
But perhaps the critics ought to have waited until they saw the finished product before attempting to torpedo it. What has emerged in Steve Jobs is a tough but fair portrait of a man who was insanely driven to change the world.
Besides, there’s no real question that it’s high time for the Jobs legacy to go under the microscope, because the high tech world he envisioned back in the 1970s and ‘80s is the one that we’re finally living in now. Times have caught up with him and his beloved products, and that means it’s time to take a second look at what they mean to us.
Jobs himself could not have asked for a better actor to step into the role that it took him a lifetime to perfect. Fassbender brilliantly reproduces Jobs’ intensity, his enigmatic smile, and his behind the scenes drive – which to many people often looked exactly like bullying – in a performance that captures the man in full.
It’s a full tilt performance aided by a director who knows how to captivate an audience, even with material as potentially niche market as the rise and rise of a Silicon Valley CEO.
It’s hard now to recall what the world looked like before the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the Internet. Back in 1984 when Apple launched the first truly home computer, Jobs could see the information revolution before it happened, but he couldn’t find the technology or the computer team to help him reach it in the rapid time frame he thought it should arrive.
So frame after frame of "Steve Jobs" involves tense discussions with engineers and programmers who keep telling him he’s demanding the impossible. In the next scenes, though, they deliver the impossible. The message is unmistakable: Jobs could be a tyrant, but he got stuff done.
How you feel about that idea greatly depends on how close you were to his personal orbit. Perhaps the most stinging criticisms of him come from his ex-girlfriend and the daughter whose paternity he denied for years.
While Jobs’ personal stock is valued at $40 million, we see him refusing to pay a dime of child support even though everyone around him can tell he’s the girl's father.
The film pulls no punches here, but it does carefully portray both sides of the man and his circumstances, trusting the audience to their own judgment. Jobs famously promoted a “reality distortion” field, but the film suggests he could fall victim to it himself.
In the 1980s computers were still scary things threatening to take over the world, launch a nuclear war or count down to doomsday. Back then Jobs thought they needed to look friendly, and his emphasis on both form and content revolutionized the field in a way that no one had ever bother to before with a humble tech device.
Fassbender’s Jobs is both tyrannical and strangely aloof, quiwtly making business calculations that are so far ahead of both friends and detractors that they never know what to make of him.
Between his turn here and his next role in a Shakespeare film for the "Game of Thrones" generation, Fassbender has made all the right moves this year. In fact one of the most remarkable aspects of his career is the deft way he’s selected his starring roles, building up a resume that speaks for itself.
With "Steve Jobs" he emerges as a bona fide superstar, ready to go head to head with world leaders (even if he still talks with a Kerry accent when the cameras stop rolling).