Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Danny Boyle

Stars: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston, John Ortiz, Sarah Snook, Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, Makenzie Moss, Adam Shapiro.

We have already had a couple of films about the late Steve Jobs, the iconic and revered founder of technology giant Apple who revolutionised the world of computers. We have had Alex Gibney’s revealing documentary Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine, which screened at MIFF in 2015, and the recent biopic Jobs, starring a miscast Ashton Kutcher, which looked at his life and career from his early years working in Steve Wozniak’s family garage in California through to the launch of the I-Pod. This new biopic takes a decidedly different approach, but this intimate study of the man and what drove him is somehow more compelling and revealing.

Steve Jobs is basically set backstage at three main product launches over a fourteen year period, beginning with the first Mac computer in 1984 through to the failed NEXT machine in 1988 and ending with the launch of the iMac in 1998. At each of the launches Jobs himself is forced to confront his own personal demons. We learn of his arrogance, his clashes with his own technical staff and even the board of Apple who ultimately sacked him from his own company. Some of the material covered here will be familiar to those who know a bit about the man, but it is presented in an exciting way here by a couple of acclaimed filmmakers.

Based on a book written by Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs has been adapted to the screen by playwright Aaron Sorkin (creator of tv’s The West Wing and The Newsroom, as well as writer of A Few Good Men and The Social Network, etc), who eschews a straightforward narrative style. This is literate, well-written, and the dialogue sings with energy and bite. It is also very heavily dialogue driven, with some of the dialogue very technical in nature and coming at a blistering pace.

The film is very theatrical in its staging as most of the action is confined to the interior backstage sets, but director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, etc) gives it a very cinematic treatment. Boyle does away with his usual visual flourishes and hyperkinetic style, using long takes and a roaming camera which, like Birdman, takes us on an elaborate journey backstage. Technically the film is proficient. Cinematographer Alwin H Kuchler (Divergent, Hanna, etc) uses different technology and film stock for the three time frames giving each period its own distinctive look and feel.

Much of the personal biographical details about Jobs emerge through a series of flashback sequences. Jobs is not painted in a very flattering light here, painting the tech genius as a flawed man and a control freak: he is abusive and abrasive to friends and colleagues around him, and ultimately alienates just about everybody in his sphere of influence. His drive for perfection took a great personal toll on both his health and his relationships. He was so absorbed in his work and creating his vision that he became emotionally detached from those around him. He treated most of his colleagues appallingly. He even has a prickly and dysfunctional relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) and his estranged daughter, whom he seems reluctant to acknowledge as his own.

Jobs is played by Michael Fassbender, who is on screen the whole time, and while he doesn’t really resemble the titular character it is only in the third act that he truly resembles the man, capturing his familiar look and mannerisms and style of dress. He nails that icy demeanour, his drive for perfection and passion for technology and his enormous ego, but he also bristles with energy. It is a remarkable transformation that overcomes any early thoughts that he, too, was miscast.

Kate Winslet is also excellent as Joanna Hoffman, his trusted confidante and marketing guru who has remained loyal to him during those turbulent years. Seth Rogen is fine as Wozniak, the real technical genius behind the company who butts heads with Jobs while seeking acknowledgement and recognition for his contribution to the success of Apple. Jeff Daniels is also good as John Sculley, the former head of Pepsi whom he lured away to become the CEO of Apple. Jobs’ daughter Lisa is played by three different young actresses – Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo and Perla Haney-Jardine.

The real Wozniak served as a consultant on the film which may account for its at times acerbic depiction of the famed founder of Apple and a more sympathetic characterisation of Wozniak himself. Steve Jobs won’t give the uninitiated much insight into the man – if you want more detailed information check out the Alex Gibney documentary. But if you want some razzle dazzle and emotional fireworks, then Danny Boyle’s intense dramatisation and Aaron Sorkin’s witty and literate take on the man will certainly suffice.



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