Steve Jobs may have died from pancreatic cancer in October 2011 at the age of 56, but the American technology entrepreneur and inventor certainly left his mark on the world … and how. Much has been written and spoken about the man, and his divisive personality. The latter is certainly laid bare for all to see (you might say it is rubbed raw) in Danny Boyle’s biopic, written by Aaron Sorkin, based upon Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography about the Apple founder.
The performances of Michael Fassbender as the uncompromising, dictatorial egotistical visionary and Kate Winslet as his undyingly loyal, perpetually exasperated marketing head are top shelf. Academy Award nominations were, indeed, just reward for effort. Also impressive are Seth Rogen, as you’ve never seen him before (he plays Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple) and Jeff Daniels as former Apple CEO John Sculley. Both are seen constantly clashing with Jobs.
Set backstage at three iconic company events and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac, the film takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of a brilliant but abrasive man. There is a hell of a lot of talking that takes place here. In fact, fundamentally that’s all there is, as we – the audience – get to see the lead up to the trio of product launches, but nothing of the launches themselves. In each case there is massive tumult in the minutes before the events (the drama is not in the carefully stage-managed launches).
Conversations, usually taking the form of confrontations, take place in small rooms, in large theatres and in hallways as the characters walk in and out of frame. These are taut, tense environments in which people are rooted to the spot when Jobs is on the prowl. Professional differences and personal issues alike are aired with a “take no prisoners” mentality. Jobs is painted as a narcissistic cad, who at first refuses to acknowledge that he has fathered a child, a child who turns out to have a brilliant mind. And he treats the girl’s mother (his former lover), played by Katherine Waterston, with utter contempt. As for his colleagues, the brains behind the operation, more often than not Jobs rides roughshod over them too. He seems to know only one way and that is his way and will trample upon anyone that gets in his path.
We, of course, realise he was sacked from Apple, only to be rehired and see the company reach unprecedented heights. So, there is no questioning his ability to sell the image as well as the revolutionary products the company produced.
Steve Jobs is intense and dramatic and most certainly insightful, far more so that previous movie efforts to illuminate the man and his life. Having said that it is also so full-on, so in-your-face, that there will be those who find it too much. I, though, just sat back and admired not only the script, but the way actors of such outstanding ability, led so ably by Fassbender and Winslet, were able to seamlessly execute the endless diatribe that played out. Rated M, Steve Jobs scores an 8 to 8 ½ out of 10.
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg
Release Date: 4 February, 2016
Rating: M – Coarse language and mature themes
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television