Film Review – Steve Jobs (2015)


Universal’s previous attempt at portraying the life of Apple’s beloved founder, 2013’s JOBS, saw an Ashton Kutcher whose uncanny likeness to the real Steve Jobs was matched only by the sheer conventional mediocrity of the film’s script and direction. This time around, it seems that they’ve gone all out, and decided to bring out the big guns.

This new version sees Michael Fassbender take on the title role and shine as Steve Jobs, overcoming the obvious fact that he looks nothing like the cult figure. Rather, he creates his own version of the character, inhabiting it with every egomaniacal word and every precise movement, in what is a truly Oscar-worthy performance.

Written by Hollywood’s favorite wordsmith Aaron Sorkin – by now surely an expert in Silicon Valley messiah figures, after his 2010 tour-de-force The Social Network – and directed with olympic aplomb by Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs defiantly eschews the conventional biopic structure.

The film is loosely based on a selection of elements taken from Steve Jobs’ authoritative biography by Walter Isaacson, and presents us with a series of behind-the-scenes confrontations between characters in the moments preceding three of Steve Jobs’ defining product launch presentations: the 1984 presentation of the original Macintosh, 1988’s launch of the NeXT computer (which Jobs’ created after being sacked from Apple), and the 1998 debut of the iMac, which marked Jobs’ return to the iconic company he had founded two decades earlier.

Each of the three acts provides its own self-contained arc, with a unique style and pace, whilst echoing the unifying pressure-cooker backstage setting. In lesser hands this structure might have come across as unnecessarily contrived and gimmicky, but Boyle’s direction handles it superbly as it keeps up with Sorkin’s signature walk-and-talk sequences.

These three snapshots into Steve Jobs’ rise to icon status (the film stops just before the messianic heights of his post-iPod career, as well the diagnosis of the cancer that would eventually take his life in 2011), lay bare his creative and professional struggles, as well as his shortcomings as a friend, a partner and a father. He is shown to be a man whose powerful vision blinds him to what matters most to those closest to him.

These include his long-suffering but loyal assistant and friend Joanna Hoffman, portrayed with cold precision and sisterly warmth by Kate Winslet, who stand by Jobs’ side at all times, trying in vain to keep his ruthlessness in check while his personal and professional lives collide and implode around him; Seth Rogen as the endearing Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder who juggles a sincere love and admiration for his friend with the frustration of dealing with Jobs’ shadow-casting persona; and Jeff Daniels as Apple’s CEO John Sculley, with whom Steve Jobs shares the most incandescent and sorkinesque verbal spars.

Despite this, it is Jobs’ relationship with his daughter Lisa (whose paternity he initially disputes) that provides the film’s emotional core, and Jobs’ ultimate redemption. Throughout the film Steve Jobs’ complete and utter devotion to Apple, his brain-child, is paralleled with his disregard for the needs of the real child standing before him.

The film will undoubtedly be seen as controversial in the way it ruthlessly selects snapshots from the real Steve Jobs’ life for Aaron Sorkin to mould, creating a fictionalised story of a tormented lone visionary genius.

But despite the shortcomings which won’t make this a factually accurate biopic, Steve Jobs is an unquestionably stylish and energetic feat of cinematic storytelling, as director Danny Boyle conducts the vast orchestra of talent before him, breathlessly weaving around Aaron Sorkin‘s razor-sharp script in a enjoyably chaotic and relentlessly paced film that leaves you wanting more as the credits start rolling.

Gonçalo Sousa

Boigraphy, Drama | UK, 2015 | 12A |Universal Pictures | 13th November 2015(UK) |Dir.Danny Boyle | Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston