Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) – directing from Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay – showed his “work in progress” on Steve Jobs at the 42nd Annual Telluride Film Festival Saturday night, and the reaction has been through the roof, with Michael Fassbender (in the upcoming Macbeth, Oscar-nominated for 12 Years a Slave) being hailed as an Oscar contender for his lead performance.
Festival-goers lined up hours in advance and filled the Palm Theater to capacity to see the unveiling of Boyle’s latest film, giving the director a standing ovation while the festival’s executive director honored him with a Telluride silver medallion. Boyle called to the stage Sorkin and many of the film’s principal cast (Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Michael Stuhlbarg), as well as Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple. Boyle told the audience “It isn’t quite finished. We’ve got a tiny little bit of work to do, so please forgive any shortcomings, like if you notice any misspellings!” Boyle told Deadline he is still tweaking little bits of the film, thus the official label of work in progress.
Deadline had effusive praise for the directing, writing, and acting on the biopic, calling Sorkin’s script “thrilling,” like “an action movie driven almost exclusively by words, ” Boyle’s direction “flawless,” and Fassbender’s performance “spot-on.” The publication also caught the reaction of Wozniak at the festival, who is portrayed in the film by Seth Rogen. Wozniak said, “I felt like I was actually watching Steve Jobs and the others, not actors portraying them.”
Variety offered kudos to Guy Hendrix Dyas’ “unobtrusively excellent production design,” praising the decision to shoot the film’s three major acts in different formats, “grainy 16mm film for 1984, lustrous 35mm for 1988, and sleek, high-definition digital for 1998… just the sort of nicely understated aesthetic flourish that Steve Jobs himself would have surely appreciated.” Of Fassbender’s performance, Variety headlined the actor as shooting to the top of this year’s Best Actor race, stating “he completely owns the screen.”
Indie Wire called Fassbender’s character study “first-rate,” “a vivacious performance that provides a critical anchor” and “a physical marvel” from his “vivid expressions and constant movement.” While identifying the movie as “flawed but fascinating,” Sorkin’s script was praised as “a masterwork of narrative economy” and the pacing found to be impressive: “while the story covers 14 years, it never takes a breather.”
The Hollywood Reporter gushed about the film, “it is exactly, in many respects, what one would hope for” with “intelligent, witty, superhuman” rapid-fire dialogue from Sorkin and a first-rate, dynamic performance from Fassbender who “nails the part of Jobs.” “You get the strong sense from Fassbender of a mind that is always several steps beyond everyone else’s.” “Boyle’s fast-heartbeat pacing and quasi-verite style provides the new film with a constant dramatic hum and you-are-there immediacy.” THR pointed out some limitations, including its familiar subject matter, Fassbender bearing no physical resemblance to Jobs, and the inherent difficulties of heartlessness in the main character.
The completed version of Steve Jobs is expected to premiere as the centerpiece screening at the New York Film Festival on October 3 and will be released by Universal on October 9. It has been chosen to close the London Film Festival on October 18.