Director: Danny Boyle. Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg and Katherine Waterston. Genre: Drama. Running time: 122 minutes. Budget: $30 million. Rating: 15 (UK), R (USA).
Can somebody change the world and still be a good person? That’s the question posed by Steve Jobs, the most recent film about the late great founder of billion dollar company Apple. While he was responsible for repeatedly revolutionising technology, Jobs didn’t have a reputation for being a particularly nice guy. His gigantic genius and polarizing personality are both on full display in this riveting, unconventional drama starring Michael Fassbender in the titular role.
The Oscar award-winning Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) teams up with writer Aaron Sorkin to create a piece of work which matches the high quality of Sorkin’s other penned film about a similarly troubled technological titan, Mark Zuckerberg, in The Social Network (2010).
Don’t expect Boyle and Sorkin to deliver a biopic detailing the life of Steve Jobs like 2013’s critically panned (although I didn’t think it was bad at all) Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher. Instead they crafted a character study of the man which explores how Jobs’ burning desire to bring the world innovative electronics affected his relationships with the people closest to him.
The film is split into three acts with each one revolving around the drama that occurs before the presentations of three different products launched by Jobs. The first act takes place in 1984 and sees him about to reveal the very first Mac computer. After this the film skips four years to leaner times for Jobs as, separated from Apple, he prepares to unveil a new computer for his company NeXT. In the final act, he’s on the verge of presenting the iMac for Apple in 2002.
Throughout the three acts we see his varying treatment of the people around him: the close but platonic bond with marketing manager Joanna Huffman (Kate Winslet); his father/son dynamic with Jeff Sculley (Jeff Daniels); his strained friendship with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen); his bullying of employee Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stulbahg); his irritation by former girlfriend Chrisann Brennan and his unintentionally-cruel denial of fathership of their daughter Lisa.
In all three acts, Jobs comes into contact with all of these people just before he’s about to go on stage and their unscheduled visits cause gripping dramatic moments expertly written by Sorkin. His typically wordy, fast paced script is filled with zingy humour as well as compelling dramatic intensity. Perhaps one or two of the quips come at the cost of a couple of serious periods but you’ll be entertained either way.
Apart from a few brief flashbacks, the entire film consists of Jobs and others talking and walking around the backstage of three different theatres which could have easily been a bore to watch but Boyle’s vivid direction ensures you’re fully engaged. The Brit, who replaced original director David Fincher, keeps thing urgent and energetic at all times which means that the 122 minutes fly by.
Boyle’s direction and Sorkin’s script is wonderfully executed by the main man Fassbender who once again proves he’s one of the best working actors out there. His performance is so gloriously good that at no point do you care that he looks nothing like Steve Jobs. Fassbender’s played complex characters in films such as Shame, 12 Years A Slave and in the X Men prequels as Magneto and his ability to exhibit multiple layers as an actor is on show here. He displays the good traits of Jobs: his charisma, his entrepreneurial intelligence, his drive to succeed – just as well as he displays his flaws: his god complex, his extreme arrogance, his corporate paranoia and his tyrannical condescending and patronising of others. If Fassbender doesn’t get nominated for an Oscar, I swear to God I will eat my iPhone!
While Steve Jobs is definitely the Fassbender show, he’s complemented by some outstanding supporting performances.
Winslet immensely impresses as the loyal long-suffering right-hand woman to Jobs ,even if her intentionally alternating Polish/American accent is at times distracting.
As always Rogen is absolutely loveable as Steve Wozinak and he adds a dimension previously unseen in his other work of pain as the friend to Jobs who’s hurt by his supreme stubbornness.
Daniels is also great as Apple CEO John Sculley, the only person who Jobs looks up to, until their relationship eventually turns sour.
The Joaquin Phoenix lookalike Stulbarg (Arnold Rothstein from Boardwalk Empire), Waterston (Inherent Vice) and the three actresses who play Jobs’ daughter Lisa at different ages all deserve lots of credit for their brilliant contributions too.
As you can tell, I loved Steve Jobs, but it’s understandably not a film that will wow everyone as much as it did me. Some may find the three act structure a bit too coincidental and repetitive. Those who know very little about the life of Jobs probably won’t leave the film feeling particularly informed. On a very minor note too, the conclusion did feel a little bit on the light and fluffy side of thing as well.
If you can get past these things, then there’s a very good chance you’ll really enjoy Steve Jobs. If so, you’ll be glued to the screen as much as society nowadays is glued to their iPhones. With its dynamite direction, wonderful writing and first-class cast, the film will surely be a contender when awards season rolls along. Definitely one of the films of the year, Steve Jobs scores a:
1ish – 2ish Stay away at ALL costs!!!
3ish – 4ish A bad film, not Michael Jackson Bad, but just straight up bad
5ish – 6ish Probably worth seeing at some point
7ish – 8ish A fantastic film definitely worth watching whenever you can
9ish -10 Unmissable – go watch it now!!!
Check out the trailer here: